One of the maddest sporting stories of the year came from France a couple of months ago, as it was announced from nowhere that Paris-based clubs Racing 92 and Stade Francais would merge. Players and staff only heard of the decision when it was publicly announced, and after a week of utter chaos - in which the Stade players went on strike - it was abandoned.
While nothing has come of it, the entire farrago added an extra bit of edge to today's clash between Racing and Stade in the Top 14.
With the first-half drawing to a close, the game erupted in violence, with an all-out brawl ending in two red cards, one for each side. Racing's Lauret went, as did, to nobody's surprise, Pascal Pape.
Pape is an eejit, who saw red earlier this season for diving and is best remembered on these shores for thrusting his knee into Jamie Heaslip's back, leaving the Irish No. 8 with fractured vertebrae. Hilariously, this game began with the Stade players wearing t-shirts reading "Merci, Pascal" before the game. Things predictably kicked off soon after, and Pape couldn't help himself, punching a Racing opponent.
— Arnaud Becquet (@ArnaudBecquet) April 30, 2017
He is, in fairness, sinned against also: Lauret was sent off for having a dig back at Pape. Stade immediately subbed Pape for a blood injury in a bid to escape the referee's attention, but it didn't work out, and he became the latest in a long line of referees to give out a Pascal Pape red card.
Watch it below.
Pascal Pape Red Card
Joe Schmidt has a line that he drums into the Irish players: "you are what you repeatedly do". Pascal Pape is living proof of that.