This season, Racing 92 is a team whose engine is still a little sleepy.
A team whose results are irregular, the contents unconvincing with, sometimes, sufficiency and waste.
The start of the Ciel et Blanc season is a good illustration of their journey so far: a first victory against Castres in the opener, a defeat at Bayonne, a victory against Lyon and two defeats against Stade Toulousain and La Rochelle.
Fixtures and Top 14 results
Ranking Top 14
The sudden end of the career of the prodigy Virimi Vakatawa, the long convalescence of Bernard Le Roux and the risk-taking of the metronome Finn Russell did not help.
To explain this lackluster mid-season, let's look at the recruitment made in the off-season.
Forwards: Tarrit solid, Woki not yet sharp
The departure of Teddy Baubigny from the RCT left a void behind the international Camille Chat as hooker.
To compensate for this departure, the recruiters of Racing 92 went to draw in Pro D2.
A sure bet in the championship and a potential holder in Nevers, Jannick Tarrit arrived on tiptoe in Île-de-France.
And the results are positive since, despite his competition with Chat, the hot hooker has been fielded 15 times at this stage of the season (excluding the Champions Cup) and has often shown guarantees.
Third in the hierarchy of hookers, Peniami Narisia, who arrived from Brive in the offseason, has so far only played five Top 14 matches, including one as a starter.
Injured at the start of the season, he has yet to show his explosive qualities.
At the post of pillar, the English pillar Biyi Alo, who arrived late from Wasps, had to settle for only a few crumbs without giving satisfaction.
Arrived from Nevers, Jannick Tarrit, here ball in hand, does not disappoint.
Baptiste Autissier / PANORAMIC
At the second-line position, two disappointments are worth noting.
The biggest, of course, comes from the international Cameron Woki, flagship recruit of the off-season from the UBB.
Yet essential so far with 17 match sheets in all competitions, the versatile second or third line has not yet made a reference match.
Inevitably expected a few months before the World Cup, he will have to raise the cursor and return to the level displayed last season.
Another disappointment, that of the colossus Veikoso Poloniati.
Arrived from Moana Pasifika, the Tongan only played his first match during the 16th day of Top 14 in La Rochelle.
Also aligned against Pau, he did not disappoint during these two meetings.
Finally, in the third line, the Fijian Kitione Kamicamika, also arrived from Brive, was brilliant.
In his characteristic all-powerful style, the former UBB and Vannes player has rarely disappointed.
Three-quarters: Saili floats, Tuivuaka misses his adaptation
The sudden end of Virimi Vakatawa's career left a big void in the center of a flamboyant Racing attack.
To replace him, the Sky and White leaders had to tear themselves away to hire the former center of Harlequins and Biarritz, Francis Saili.
A very good defender, powerful and skilful, the former All Black took part in 16 Top 14 and Champions Cup matches for four tries and was often reassuring.
But on the wings, Racing 92 had to make do with its "old hands", which are Juan Imhoff and Donovan Taofifenua.
The three-quarter center Francis Saili, here on the right, makes his power speak.
ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP
The young Benmegal and Leraître showed up but the rookies Regan Grace and Asaeli Tuivuaka were totally absent.
For the first, it's bad luck.
Seriously injured with his St-Helens club, the rugby league specialist has not played a single minute with the Ile-de-France club and his recovery is likely to be further prolonged.
Too bad for the one who scored a whopping 72 tries in 123 matches with his former team.
For the second, adaptation in France is particularly difficult.
Arrival of the Parma Zebres in the off-season, the former Fijian bombshell from rugby 7s played only one match against La Rochelle on the 5th day.
Too bad, given the natural qualities of the player.
Christian Wade had started his experience with Ciel et Blanc very strongly with four tries in four matches.
But little by little, the Englishman disembarked from the Wasps disappeared from the radar and his playing time was considerably reduced.
Finally at the back, Warrick Gelant (10 selections with South Africa) was the other flagship recruit of the transfer window.
Sharing his playing time with the young and brilliant Max Spring, the Springbok was clean, without showing real flashes.
But the player could well explode in this second part of the season.
In summary, the results of the recruitment of Racing 92 are mixed.
However, Jacky Lorenzetti's club is in 5th place in the Top 14, in a championship tighter than ever.
Behind the scenes, the club has already prepared well for the future season.
Despite the signing of Finn Russell in Bath as well as the possible departures of Wenceslas Lauret or Louis Dupichot, Racing 92 has THE championship rookie next year: Siya Kolisi (31 years old, 61 selections).
The captain of the Springboks will land in Île-de-France after the 2023 World Cup. But the South African star will not arrive alone since the Racingmen have enlisted very heavy.
One of the best Pro D2 players this season, pillar Thomas Laclayat (Oyonnax), has signed up.
A rookie of choice since the pillar is the co-best scorer of Pro D2 with 10 tries.
He who has already tasted Marcoussis, continues his ascent.
The second line of Wales, Will Rowlands (23 caps) has also signed up while Jordan Joseph's return from loan has not yet been made.
At the turn, South Africans James Hall (Stade Français) and Tristan Tedder (Perpignan) will join the Ile-de-France ranks.
The Ciel et Blancs have also signed the overpowered Josua Tuisova (Lyon) as well as his two Fijian compatriots Wame Naituvi (Stade Montois) and Vinaya Habosi (Fijian Drua).
The latter could be the big surprise at the winger position next season even though he was recently dismissed by his club.
Before planning for the next season, Racing 92 has the opportunity to get closer to the top 3 if it manages to win against Brive, this Saturday (5 p.m.), in its den of the Arena.