Castres came practically out of nowhere in 2013 to win their first Top 14 title in 20 years at the expense of big-spenders Toulon. They made it to the final again this year, although they didn’t quite manage to knock over RCT in Johnny Wilkinson’s final game, it proved that the Pyrénées side were no flash in the pan, but real contenders.
While they’ve been reasserting themselves at the top table of French rugby, Castres have been supplied by Japanese brand ASICS, which, when we reviewed last year’s shirt was something of a rarity in rugby. Of course, since then ASICS has made quite the impact on the international rugby scene, and have left the club rugby stuff to other brands.
Brands like er… Kipsta?
If you saw the name at the top of this review and said, ‘er, who?’ you’re not alone. Kipsta is actually an in-house brand of French sports retailer Decathlon. Now, if your reaction to that was to think that it was the equivalent of Northampton Saints having their new kit supplied by ultra-chavvy SportsDirect in-house brand Donnay… well… yeah…
And yet… well just look at it – it’s pretty nice, isn’t it? It’s modern while at the same time not being overly busy or garish, the colours involved are really nice and complimentary… while the brand might be about an unprestigious as you get, they’ve not tried to make a ‘statement’ to establish their credentials as a rugby brand, they’ve simply made a nice, clean, simple-but-not-boring jersey and left it at that.
The away shirt is basically the same as the home jersey, but with the dark blue replaced with white. The cross-hatched design reminds us of Castres’ Heineken Cup shirt from last season, but we think this works much better.
Two things we’re not entirely convinced by, though. The collar, which looks a bit like Canterbury’s ‘Loop 21’ design, looks a bit high to us… it’s dangerously close to having a turtle neck vibe, the likes of which we haven’t seen since England’s 2003 World Cup shirt…
The other thing we’re not keen on is our old adversary – the grip panel. Now, for starters, why on earth do you need these things on replica shirts? It’s perhaps the silliest conceit of modern shirt manufacture – the notion that people are actually using their replica shirts to play rugby is utterly ridiculous. In truth the only thing that tape is ever likely to grip to is a pint of cold, sweet lager as it rest on a front-rowers belly…
But back to the matter at hand – the grippy translucent dots on these shirts. They look a bit like sequins or diamantés to us… and frankly that’s a little offputting, isn’t it?
But these are pretty minor quibbles – for a first go, this is a pretty decent effort from Kipsta. It’s not too plain, it’s quite modern, and it works as a whole. We’re not sure we’d be able to forgive that if it was manufactured by Donnay, Slazenger or Everlast… but that’s because we’re snobs, and ignorance is bliss.
SHIT/GOOD RATING: GOOD