Section Paloise

Section Paloise (pronounced [sɛk.sjɔ̃ pal.waz], Occitan pronunciation: [sekˈsju paw'liŋ]), commonly referred to as Section [sɛk.sjɔ̃] or as Pau [po], is a French rugby union club founded in 1902 based in Pau, capital of Béarn and the Pyrénées-Atlantiques Département. The rugby club competes in Top 14, the highest level of the French league system and is a section of the multisport club Section Paloise.[1]

Section Paloise
Section paloise badge.png
Full nameSection Paloise Béarn Pyrénées
Founded1902; 119 years ago (1902)
LocationPau, France
Ground(s)Stade du Hameau (Capacity: 18,324)
PresidentBernard Pontneau
Coach(es)Thomas Domingo, Geoffrey Leanne-Petit and Paul Tito
Captain(s)Quentin Lespiaucq-Brettes
League(s)Top 14
1st kit
2nd kit
Official website

Section Paloise has been chaired by Bernard Pontneau since 2006. The first team is coached by Thomas Domingo, Geoffrey Leanne-Petit and Paul Tito.

The professional structure, known as Section paloise rugby pro, was created in 1998 and is supported by the Association Section paloise rugby which gathers more than 450 members.

Their home ground is the Stade du Hameau, after 80 years of playing at the Croix du Prince stadium (1910-1990). The club won the Bouclier de Brennus three times in 1928, 1946 and 1964 and the European Challenge in 2000.

The club also won the Challenge Yves du Manoir in 1939, 1952 and 1997, as well as a French Pro D2 title in 2015.

They most recently earned promotion by winning the championship of the second-level Rugby Pro D2 in 2015, nine years after having been relegated from the top flight.[2]

A stronghold of French rugby, the club has become a symbol of Béarn culture and heritage. The official Section Paloise anthem is the Honhada, since March 2012. The lyrics of the song were composed on the air of the famous Scottish ballad The water is wide.

Section are sponsored by French petroleum company Total.

Recent France internationals Imanol Harinordoquy, Damien Traille, and Lionel Beauxis began their professional club careers with Section Paloise.


Rugby in Pau and BéarnEdit

After Le Havre and Bordeaux, Pau was the third major provincial French city to host rugby. As a matter of fact, the sport's presence has been attested since 1890 by the Coquelicots de Pau (Poppies of Pau), playing matches against the neighbouring teams of the Montagnards de Bayonne (Mountaineers of Bayonne) and the Pyrénéenne de Tarbes.

Stade Palois was founded in 1899 by former students of the Lous-Barthou high school, who were imbued with Anglophilia, in vogue in Pau during the Belle Epoque.

Beginnings and first title (1902 - 1939)Edit

1913 - Tom Potter in Pau, France

Founded in April 1902, the Section paloise de ligue girondine is an all-round sports club in Pau. Since 1905, it is simply called Section paloise. At that time, rugby or "rugby football" was hugely popular. The club was first established as a Barette (sport) team, yet the club very quickly turned towards this new sport of rugby union. A rugby club had already been formed on November 12, 1899, since the Stade palois, had been founded in café on rue Bayard. The Stade Palois was thus integrated into Section to form the dominant club in bearnese rugby. In 1912, Section Paloise abandoned its blue and black jerseys, in order to definitively adopt green and white as its colours. The club was then led by Welshman Tom Potter, who took on the role of player-coach until the outbreak of the Great War. The club (all sports combined) paid a heavy price, with around forty deaths on the battlefields.

Section Paloise, winners of the French rugby championship in 1927-1928

During the 1927-1928 season, the first team won the title of Côte Basque champion for the second consecutive year. Subsequently, it finished first in its pool of 5 in the French championship. In the following groups of 4, it defeated Stade Français, USA Perpignan and Lyon OU as well as the defending champions Stade Toulousain in the semi-final by 3-0 after extra time (1 try at zero).

Section paloise won the final by beating Quillan 6-4 in Toulouse in May 1928. That day the local newspaper, Le Patriote, reported that the "berets" beat the "hats".

Before the war, the Section paloise won the Challenge Yves du Manoir in the 1938-1939 edition against RC Toulon by a score of 5-0 after extra time, courtesy of a try by Desperbasque and transformed by the full-back Courtade.

After WWIIEdit

In 1946, at the end of the war, the club was once again crowned French champions. Section Paloise, won the prize, beating the likes of Toulouse and Agen. In spite of some unispiring results during the first phase of the championship, Section successively beat Stade Toulousain in the quarter-finals and Perpignan in the semi-finals (6-3 after extra time) to reach the final against their neighbours from the French capital. However, guided by a series of 12 consecutive victories, FC Lourdes were largely defeated 11-0 at the Parc des Princes in Paris. The press noted then that the Section had a very homogeneous team without "stars" but with a perfect physical and moral condition. Theo Cazenave, Pierre Lauga and captain André Rousse are some of the figures of this remarkable XV.

Section Paloise lost in the semi-finals of the 1950 French championship against the future French Olympic champion, Castres Olympique.

After a French Cup semi-final in 1951, the team won the Yves du Manoir challenge in 1952. In 1959, François Moncla, then international and title holder with Racing Club de France, became captain and a new, younger team was formed.

The team slowly took its bearings and in 1964, Section Paloise became French champion for the third time, beating the great Béziers 13-0. Its stars at the time were Moncla, Piqué, Capdouze, Saux, Etcheverry and Abadie. However, all had started badly during this season, the press even published a headline in October entitled La Section en perdition (The Section in Perdition). The team had just lost 31-3 in Agen and lost on the Croix du Prince by 24-3 to their heavyweight rivals. The players returned to the changing rooms under the whistles and some supporters tore up their season tickets. Year in year out, the team qualified for the finals in extremis with a 3-0 victory against Saint-Girons. The Section thus qualifies in thirtieth position out of a total of 32 qualifiers. The adventure gradually took shape with successive victories over Brive, Chalon, Bayonne and Narbonne before the consecration against Béziers.

Robert Paparemborde era (1965 - 1990)Edit

The following seasons were more unspectacular from a sporting point of view, with captain Moncla stopping his career at the beginning of the 1967 season. From 1968 onwards, a new development took place, as the positions of General President and Rugby President could not be held concurrently. It was the departure of Albert Cazenave after 16 years as President, and that of his brother Theo from the role of coach.

That same year, the Section saw the birth of a young talent from Laruns in the Ossau Valley. Robert Paparemborde started his first game as an inside centre but it was as a prop that he became a world reference. Laurent Cabannes made his debut at the age of 17 and years later became one of the world's best flankers. On a sporting level, the first team lost to Montferrand 14-11 in the quarter-finals in 1970 and reached the semi-finals against Narbonne in 1974, having gone past Agen in the round of 16 by a surprise 24-21. The team spent a single season in Group B, 1977-1978, and then moved back to the elite immediately.

Section did not fulfil its 18-year rule, after 1928, 1946 and 1964 as they did not win another title in 1982, narrowly defeated by SU Agen in the Round of 16. They did, however, reach the quarter-finals in 1983 against Nice.

At the end of the 1980s, with two seasons in Group B, the first team reached the finals of this category but narrowly failed (1989 and 1990). The Section was then in a delicate sporting and economic situation.

Revival then fall (1990 - 2006)Edit

In October 1990, the club left its historic Stade de la Croix du Prince for the more modern Stade du Hameau. This move helped the club to solve its debts, as the Croix du Prince was sold to the Pau Town Hall. The beginning of the 1990s saw the first team begin to recover and they remained in Group A in 1991 and 1992. In 1993, the team even reached the Top 16 but failed to qualify for the quarter-finals in favour of FC Grenoble who were deprived of the title after a refereeing error and RC Narbonne who played their fifth quarter-final in 6 seasons.

During the 1994 and 1995 seasons, Section Paloise did not reach the top 16 and participated in the Moga Cup where it failed in the final against Aviron Bayonnais in Mont de Marsan.

Rugby Palois moves up in the hierarchy and obtains again good results. Also in 1996, the Section played in the final of the Challenge Yves du Manoir and was eliminated in the semi-final of the French championship, each time against Brive. These results enabled the club to qualify for the second edition of the European Rugby XV Cup.

In 1997, the Section was once again awarded a national trophy which was the Yves du Manoir challenge, while reaching the quarter-finals of the French championship, again both times against the same team from Bourgoin. In 1998, it reached the semi-finals of the H-Cup, beaten only by the future winner of the competition (the English Bath). In 2000, the Section won the European Shield against Castres by 34-21 in Toulouse. The same season, Pau eliminates Montferrand in the quarter-final of the French championship but misses the final by a hair's breadth against Colomiers in the semi-final. The Section lost 24-22 after extra time, the team is led by Joël Rey, David Aucagne, Thierry Cléda, Frédéric Torossian and David Dantiacq.

The following seasons were much more disappointing. The team is often satisfied to play the maintenance in the first division except a qualification in play-off in 2003, and a good course in European challenge in 2005 which sees it only failing in the final against the Sale Sharks. The Section is finally relegated to Pro D2 after the 2005-2006 season, a relegation that it had already avoided by very little the previous season (victory in the play-off). The club plays in Pro D2 from the 2006-2007 season hoping for a better tomorrow, betting a lot on training, like those youngsters trained at the club and who wore the jersey of the French Rugby team during the 2000s: Beauxis, Brusque, Harinordoquy, Traille and Bernat-Salles.

Rebuilding and then returning to ambitions (since 2006)Edit

Section Paloise returned to the elite of French rugby in 2011-2012, after a season that saw it finish second in the championship, and undefeated at home, lost in the final against Stade Montois (29-20). In 2012-2013, the club again reached the Pro D2 final to gain promotion to the Top 14. On this occasion, the clubs of supporters, partners and other works councils organised a trip that will bring together no less than 142 buses to the Stade Chaban-Delmas. However, at this stage of the competition, the Section still lost to CA Brive by a score of 30-10 in front of 33,175 spectators.

After another disappointment the following season against La Rochelle, defeated 35-18 at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre in the semi-finals, the club made a good recruitment for the coming season with the arrival of manager Simon Mannix.[3] Section obtained direct access to the Top 14 that year. As soon as the season ended, Simon Mannix used his address book to bring in players like Colin Slade, Carl Hayman and Conrad Smith, considered at that time to be of the best centres in the world.[4]

Smith is now high-performance director at the club.[5]

Mannix was dismissed in 2019 after five seasons, when a string of poor results convinced the board to part ways.[6]

The first team is now coached by Thomas Domingo, Geoffrey Lanne-Petit and Paul Tito, after joint head coaches Nicolas Godignon and Frédéric Manca took a step back at the end of 2020.[7][8]

Club IdentityEdit


The colours of Section Paloise have been green and white since 1912. Previously, the players wore blue and black jerseys (a legacy of Stade palois) which were soon abandoned for these new colours. Jean Plaà (manager at the time) justified this choice as green represents the club's hopes and white the snow of the Pyrenees in Bearn. It has since become customary for the club's teams to wear a white jersey at home and a green jersey away from home.

In recent years, a black and green jersey has been regularly used for playing away.


The coat of arms of Section Paloise represents the Pic du the Midi d'Ossau mountain, surrounded by green and white. Pic du the Midi d'Ossau is a Pyrenean peak, locally nicknamed Jean-Pierre which symbolises the region for many people from Béarn.

A second version of the coat of arms was released in 1998 for the creation of the professional structure, displayed on the jerseys of the first team at the beginning of the 2001-2002 season. This one then keeps the famous peak as emblem but evolves towards a darker bottle green colour. The latest version of the coat of arms dates from the start of the 2012-2013 season. The colour of the coat of arms reverts to the original lighter green and incorporates the new appellation Section paloise Béarn Pyrénées. With this name change, the club symbolises the desire of its directors to further anchor the club as the driving force behind professional rugby in Béarn but more generally in the Pyrenees.

Hymn and songsEdit

Section Paloise's official anthem is the Honhada since March 2012. The song, composed by Didier Fois (Arraya, Hestiv'Oc festival, Ostau Bearnés), was met with a mixed reception in its early days and soon became a must for fans, who sing it at the start of every match. The lyrics of the song were composed on the air of the famous Scottish ballad The water is wide, also covered by Renaud in the Northern Irish Ballad.

Tradiotionnal Bearn songs from local band Nadau(fr) such as the Encantada and De cap tà l'immortèla as well as the famous Béarn anthem Si Canti are also widely popular among the local faithful. De cap tà l'immortèla had long been considered to be the unofficial anthem Section Paloise as it is so popular with the public.


The club's mascot is a bear named Bearnie (pronounced "Bernie"). The bear was chosen because it is one of the symbols of the Pyrenees, and its name is a play on words with Béarn, the region of which Pau has been the capital since 1464.

Club honoursEdit

Finals resultsEdit

French championshipEdit

Date Winner Runner-up Score Venue Attendance
6 May 1928 Section Paloise US Quillan 6-4 Stade des Ponts Jumeaux, Toulouse 20.000
24 March 1946 Section Paloise FC Lourdes 11-0 Parc des Princes, Paris 30.000
24 May 1964 Section Paloise AS Béziers 14-0 Stade Municipal, Toulouse 27.797

Challenge CupEdit

Date Winner Runner-up Score Venue Attendance
27 May 2000 Section Paloise Castres Olympique 34-21 Stade des Sept Deniers, Toulouse 6.000
21 May 2005 Sale Sharks Section Paloise 27-3 Kassam Stadium, Oxford 7.230

Pro D2 promotion playoffsEdit

Date Winner Runner-up Score Venue Attendance
27 May 2012 Stade Montois Section Paloise 29–20 Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux 23,928

Current standingsEdit

2020–21 Top 14 Table watch · edit · discuss
Club Played Won Drawn Lost Points for Points against Points diff. Tries for Tries against Try bonus Losing bonus Points
1 Toulouse (C) 26 17 1 8 767 557 +210 92 53 8 3 81
2 La Rochelle (RU) 26 17 0 9 726 452 +274 79 41 6 4 78
3 Racing (SF) 26 17 0 9 757 577 +180 82 48 6 4 78
4 Bordeaux Bègles (SF) 26 15 1 10 740 546 +216 78 41 7 3 72
5 Clermont (QF) 26 15 1 10 830 619 +211 88 61 6 5 71
6 Stade Français (QF) 26 15 0 11 701 622 +79 69 63 6 6 70
7 Castres 26 15 1 10 625 676 −51 61 63 3 5 69
8 Toulon 26 14 0 13 641 605 +36 62 53 7 4 66
9 Lyon 26 14 1 11 678 568 +110 74 56 3 4 65
10 Montpellier 26 10 0 16 579 615 –36 51 58 6 9 54
11 Brive 26 11 0 15 585 711 −126 52 78 2 5 51
12 Pau 26 9 1 16 688 752 −64 65 76 3 10 46
13 Bayonne (R) 26 10 0 16 565 796 −231 48 94 1 5 46
14 Agen (R) 26 0 0 26 315 1101 −696 30 146 0 2 2

If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:

  1. Competition points earned in head-to-head matches
  2. Points difference in head-to-head matches
  3. Try differential in head-to-head matches
  4. Points difference in all matches
  5. Try differential in all matches
  6. Points scored in all matches
  7. Tries scored in all matches
  8. Fewer matches forfeited
  9. Classification in the previous Top 14 season
Green background (rows 1 and 2) receive semi-final play-off places and receive berths in the 2021–22 European Rugby Champions Cup.
Blue background (rows 3 to 6) receive quarter-final play-off places, and receive berths in the Champions Cup.
Yellow background (rows 7 and Montpellier) indicates teams outside the play-offs that also earn a place in the Champions Cup.
Plain background indicates teams that earn a place in the 2021–22 European Rugby Challenge Cup.
Pink background (row 13) will qualify to the relegation play-offs.
Red background (row 14) will automatically be relegated to Rugby Pro D2.

Final table — source: [1]
Updated: 5 June 2021

Current squadEdit

The Pau squad for the 2020–21 season is:[9]

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

Player Position Union
Rayne Barka Hooker   France
Youri Delhommel Hooker   France
Quentin Lespiaucq Hooker   France
Lucas Rey Hooker   France
Ignacio Calles Prop   Argentina
Nicolas Corato Prop   France
Siegfried Fisi'ihoi Prop   Tonga
Rémi Sénéca Prop   France
Siate Tokolahi Prop   Tonga
Kevin Yameogo Prop   France
Steve Cummins Lock   Australia
Julien Delannoy Lock   France
Guillaume Ducat Lock   France
Fabrice Metz Lock   France
Daniel Ramsay Lock   New Zealand
Beka Gorgadze Back row   Georgia
Giovanni Habel-Kuffner Back row   Samoa
Reece Hewat Back row   Australia
Gabriel Souverbie Back row   France
Martin Puech Back row   France
Lekima Tagitagivalu Back row   Fiji
Luke Whitelock Back row   New Zealand
Player Position Union
Thibault Daubagna Scrum-half   France
Clovis Le Bail Scrum-half   France
Alexis Levron Scrum-half   France
Mike Harris Fly-half   Australia
Antoine Hastoy Fly-half   France
Zach Henry Fly-half   England
Baptiste Couchinave Centre   France
Nathan Decron Centre   France
Alexandre Dumoulin Centre   France
Tumua Manu Centre   Samoa
Eliott Roudil Centre   France
Jale Vatubua Centre   Fiji
Eoghan Barrett Wing   Ireland
Daniel Ikpefan Wing   France
Vincent Pinto Wing   France
Aminiasi Tuimaba Wing   Fiji
Mathias Colombet Fullback   France
Jack Maddocks Fullback   Australia

Notable former playersEdit

Rank Name Total caps

while playing for Section Paloise

1   Robert Paparemborde 52 (52)
2   Damien Traille 34 (86)
3   Imanol Harinordoquy 28 (82)
4   Jean-Pierre Saux 22 (22)
5   Philippe Bernat-Salles 21 (41)
6   François Moncla 18 (31)
7   Jean Piqué 18 (18)
8   Roger Piteu 15 (15)
9   David Aucagne 15 (15)
10   Thierry Cléda 9 (9)
11   Pierre Aristouy 6 (6)
12   Lucien Martin 6 (6)
13   Nano Capdouze 6 (6)
14   Albert Cazenave 5 (5)
15   Gilbert Pierrot 3 (3)
16   Fernand Taillantou 3 (3)
17   Philippe Carbonneau 2 (32)
18   Marc Etcheverry 2 (2)
19   Nicolas Brusque 1 (26)
20   Jean-Louis Jordana 1 (7)
21   Georges Caussarieu 1 (1)
22   Robert Sarrade 1 (1)
23   David Aguilar 1 (1)
24   Robert Labarthète 1 (1)
25   Paul Cassagne 1 (1)
26   Claude Mantoulan 1 (1)
27   Michel Lacome 1 (1)
28   Henri Marracq 1 (1)
29   André Abadie 1 (1)
30   Frédéric Torossian 1 (1)
31   David Dantiacq 1 (1)


The high density of rugby clubs in south-west France has led to numerous rivalries between SectionPaloise and neighbouring clubs. In Béarn, the rivalry has mainly centred around the often muscular clashes against the FC Oloron, also known as Fécéo.

However, Stadoceste tarbais has been another great historical rival since the 1910s.

Finally, Section has long-standing sporting rivalries dating back to the 1910s with the other major historical clubs of the Adour region: Aviron Bayonnais, Biarritz Olympique, FC Lourdes, Stade Montois & US Dax.

The basques of Aviron Bayonnais have not been able to win in Pau against Section since 1946.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Fallon, John (2018-10-13). "Irish rugby's own flight of the wild geese". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  2. ^ "PRO D2, J27 - Pau – Montauban : la Section retrouve l'élite" (Press release). Ligue nationale de rugby. 11 April 2015. Archived from the original on 19 April 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Ex-All Black Simon Mannix warns French pay days numbered". Stuff. 2020-05-01. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  4. ^ "Rugby: Former All Black Colin Slade explains why the Top 14 is on a completely different level to Super Rugby". NZ Herald. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  5. ^ "Conrad Smith: Moving the Six Nations will work for the betterment of rugby". The RUGBY Paper. 2020-06-16. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  6. ^ "Former All Black Simon Mannix's surprise adventure in Singapore". Stuff. 2020-05-02. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  7. ^ "Pau effectively sack their head coaches mid-season". Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  8. ^ Southcombe, Matthew (2021-01-05). "The contenders to be the next Cardiff Blues head coach". WalesOnline. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  9. ^ "Effectif". Section Paloise (in French). Retrieved 8 July 2020.

External linksEdit