Stade strikers hailed by fans
REACTION: Striking Stade Francais players were hailed by fans, as they arrived for crisis talks with National Rugby League officials over controversial plans to merge with Paris rivals Racing 92.
Racing's billionaire owner Jacky Lorenzetti and Stade Francais counterpart Thomas Savare announced the shock merger plan on Monday.
Stade Francais players voted overwhelmingly for strike action and will not train or play in Saturday's Top 14 clash against Castres or other matches this season.
Players from both squads - many of whom are facing imminent unemployment - met with LNR officials at their Paris headquarters.
Almost all Stade Francais' players were present but only player representatives including Pascal Papé, Laurent Sempéré, Antoine Burban, Meyer Bosman and Alexandre Flanquart were allowed into the talks.
The rest waited outside before the players emerged an hour later with Saturday's match against Castres still scheduled.
Racing 92 players were also present including captain Dimitri Szarzewski, Manuel Carizza, Xavier Chauveau, Virgile Lacombe and Matthieu Voisin.
Lorenzetti and Savare were also there.
Stade Français players arrived to cheers of "Go Paris, your supporters are here" by an enthusiastic group of up to a hundred fans who then made a guard of honour on front of LNR headquarters.
Some waved pink flags - the colour of Stade Francais - and branded banners with "No to the merger fusion," while a handful of Racing fans were also present, some favourable to the project, others not.
"Jean-Bouin [Stade Francais stadium] is our home," shouted some when the Racing players arrived minutes later.
"I won't give up anything," replied Savare, who was branded a "coward" by one Stade fan.
"It is a great cause for us, it was important to show the whole of France that we were 100 percent solid," Stade Francais centre Jonathan Danty told the crowd after leaving the LNR.
"If everyone came here it's because we believe and hope we can get what we want."