Racing 92 and Stade Francais merger off

Stade Francais president Thomas Savare (left) and Racing 92 president Jacky Lorenzetti
Stade Francais president Thomas Savare (left) and Racing 92 president Jacky Lorenzetti sparked protests after they announced the merger plans on 13 March

A proposed merger between top French sides Racing 92 and Stade Francais has been called off.

The clubs, who are based in Paris and play in the Top 14 league, announced their intention to merge six days ago.

However, Racing 92 president Jacky Lorenzetti said, in agreement with Stade president Thomas Savare, they were "giving this project up".

Stade Francais players began an open-ended strike last week, denouncing what they deemed a takeover in disguise.

They refused to train or play against Castres this weekend, forcing Saturday's game to be postponed, while the French league also called off Racing's game against Montpellier.

Stade Francais supporters demonstrated against the proposed merger at the club's stadium after the initial merger announcement.

"I heard and understood the strong reservations expressed in response to this project," added Lorenzetti.

"In any case, the social, political, cultural, human, and sporting conditions were not in place. Perhaps we had the right plan too soon, only the future will tell."

Players, officials and supporters from both clubs were taken by surprise by the initial announcement on 13 March, with Stade centre Jonathan Danty saying he and his team-mates, who were on international duty with France, thought it was "a joke".

The merger had yet to be ratified by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR), who met team representatives on Friday.

Another meeting was also scheduled for Monday, while LNR president Paul Goze and French federation boss Bernard Laporte were also going to meet later the same day.

New Zealand legend Dan Carter leads Racing's list of stars while Italy's Sergio Parisse is on Stade's books.

Stade Francais won the French Top 14 title in 2014-15, while Racing took over as champions the following year, though both are currently in the lower half of the division.

Racing's new 30,000-capacity stadium is due to be completed later in 2017 while their rivals have updated and expanded their Stade Jean-Bouin home to hold 20,000 fans in recent years.

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