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Carter kicks in to make Racing 92 fans at home in Lens

Dan Carter lining up a shot at goal against Glasgow in 2016 will be kicking for Racing 92 in Europe again against La Rochelle. ©AFP

Paris (AFP) - Booted out of their home stadium by a hip hop concert, Racing 92 are trying to make the best of hosting their European Champions Cup rugby semi-final almost 200km away in Lens.

They are bringing back All Black legend Dan Carter to take the ceremonial kick off before Sunday's all-French encounter with last year's finalists La Rochelle.

Club officials are also talking of spreading the rugby gospel in football country on Sunday.

It "will be an opportunity to bring high-level rugby to Lens", the club's sporting director Yannick Nyanga told AFP on Wednesday. 

Racing have organised buses to take their fans from western Paris to the game.

When they get there they will see Carter, a three time world player of the year and double World Cup winner, who played for Racing 92 kicking the ball again and then cheering on the team.

"We'll have a great supporter: Dan Carter is in France," said Nyanga.

"It will be an opportunity to see a legend of ours as well as  a very high level match."

By the time they beat Sale last Sunday in the quarterfinals, their Paris-La Defense Arena had long been booked for a concert by French hip hop group Sexion d'Assaut. 

It is not an isolated incident in this year's European Cup.

For their home quarterfinal against Toulouse last weekend, Munster had to move the game from Limerick to Dublin, forced to flee their Thomond Park fortress by an Ed Sheeran concert.

Nyanga said Racing had no choice.

"We have a venue that does not only host rugby," said Nyanga.

"When we have events that are planned one or two years in advance, we cannot decently block it in case we have to play a semi-final.

"The Arena's business model would no longer be viable."

The switch complicates the journey for La Rochelle, which lies in exactly the opposite direction, and their fans, who already faced a long but straight-forward 440km trip to the capital.

"It was not an attempt to get at La Rochelle, as we have read, but for the good of Racing," said Nyanga. 

"It's a problem that is a nuisance for us first.We are not playing in our back yard.We are not playing in front of all our fans," said Nyanga. 

"Instead of complaining, we try to find solutions.One of them is to bring Racing and high-level rugby to regions that are not used to it." 

Former France flanker Nyanga said the rugby club was also taking the opportunity to forge links with another Racing, the Lens Ligue 1 football club.

"We're going up on Thursday, the coaching staffs will meet.When you see what they do in soccer, at the professional level...It remains an example, it's exceptional," Nyanga said.

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Dive Deeper:
France's success underlines Top 14 dominance in Europe - Racing's Russell
Paris (AFP) - Racing 92's Finn Russell said France's success at Test level highlights the country's clubs' recent dominance in…
Heineken Champions Cup to drop two-leg format for next season’s round of 16
The first knockout phase will feature eight games on one weekend, before quarter-finals take place a week later
Leinster ‘best team in Europe’, says Toulouse coach before semi-final
Ugo Mola, Toulouse’s coach, said: ‘We play a team that totally masters European games,’ while Racing 92 face La Rochelle…
Russell highlights relegation scrap as spark for Top 14 clubs’ success in Europe
Finn Russell has said he believes the jeopardy of relegation in the Top 14 is a key factor behind the…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Horgan gives Leinster 'the edge' in Champions Cup heavyweight semi
Paris (AFP) - Leinster can beat Toulouse in Saturday's heavyweight European Champions Cup semi-final and move to within one victory…
Mako Vunipola set to return for Saracens’ Challenge Cup clash with Toulon
England prop set to bolster his club’s European challenge
Get all your news in one place