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Le championnat de France de première division fédérale, a.k.a. Fédérale 1, is a French rugby union club competition, the highest level of amateur rugby. The competition has been organised by the Fédération Française de Rugby since 2000, when it replaced the B2 Group. The championship is contested between 40 teams and named in honor of the famous former FC Lourdes and French International player, Jean Prat.
The format is long-winded and includes many steps. Before the 2015–16 season, the structure was even more complex.
A total of 10 teams compete on a double round-robin basis (18 games) in each of the 4 groups. At the end of this phase, the teams are divided as follows:
- At roughly the midpoint of the season, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) announces a list of teams that will be eligible for promotion to the country's second level, Rugby Pro D2, in the following season. Six of these clubs will advance to a set of promotion playoffs, provided that they finish in the top four in their group. Should more than six eligible teams finish in the top four of their respective groups, the top six will be selected based on table points earned (with tiebreakers employed as needed).
- The next-best 4 teams from each group that did not advance to the promotion playoffs move into the championship playoffs (Trophée Jean-Prat).
- The bottom 2 teams from each group are provisionally relegated to Fédérale 2. However, it is not uncommon for a team that would be otherwise relegated to be reprieved due to the financial troubles or complete demise of a higher-placed club.
- Promotion playoffs
- The top six teams of those eligible for promotion advance to a playoff somewhat similar to that used by France's top level, the Top 14. The top two teams receive a bye into the promotion semifinals; the other four teams are seeded based on their table points (3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5) and play a single match at a neutral site for a place in the semifinals. The 4–5 winner is then paired with the top seed, and the 3–6 winner with the second seed; these teams then play two-legged home-and-away semifinals. There is no final match; the two semifinal winners earn promotion to Pro D2.
- The 2015–16 season was the first in which the Pro D2 promotion playoffs and the Trophée Jean-Prat playoffs were separated.
- Championship playoffs
- A total of 16 teams, four from each group, advance to the championship playoffs, with the ultimate winner receiving the Trophée Jean-Prat. All matches prior to the championship final are two-legged, home-and-away ties; the final is a one-off match held at a neutral site.
Starting in 2017–18, only one team will be automatically promoted from Fédérale 1 to Pro D2, namely the league champion. This will presumably be accomplished by playing the promotion playoffs through a final. Through the 2019–20 season, two teams will continue to be promoted each season, but the second promotion place will go to a "wildcard" club selected by Ligue Nationale de Rugby, which operates the Top 14 and Pro D2. The "wildcard" club must be located north of a line running roughly from La Rochelle to Lyon, and show itself to be capable of transitioning to fully professional rugby.
For the 2017–18, there are 44 teams in Fédérale 1, divided into four pools of eleven teams.
Pool 1 is the promotion group and consists of eleven teams. The top team will automatically be promoted to the Pro D2 competition, while the four next-best placed teams taking part in promotion play-offs for a second promotion place. The bottom team will progress to the relegation play-offs.
Pools 2, 3 and 4 each consists of eleven teams. The top five teams, plus the sixth-placed team with the best record, will take part in the play-offs for the Jean Prat Trophy. The bottom team in each group is relegated to Fédérale 2, while the second-bottom teams progress to relegation play-offs.
Jean-Prat results (2007-08)
The first semi-final two-leg series of the Jean-Prat would see Périgueux face off against tournament favorites Colomiers. The first leg ended in a draw 12-12 with no tries scored and every point on the board put up by penalty kicks. In the second leg, Colomiers still couldn't manage to figure out Périgueux, but managed to eventually defeat them 9-6 to move on to the final.
The second semi-final two-leg series would see Aix-en-Provence against US Bressane (Bourg-en-Bresse). Mathieu Chabaud opened with a drop goal for US Bressane and it took Aix-en-Provence 20 minutes to respond with a try by Mohamed Berrabah. The match continued with several drops and penalties until US Bressane's Tsepo Kokoali scored a try in the 73rd minute. However, Aix-en-Provence sealed the first leg victory with another penalty kick making the final score 22-17.
US Bressane would show their class in the second leg by overcoming the odds and defeating Aix-en-Provence 14-3, allowing them to seal a place in the final based on the aggregate score. This assures promotion to Pro D2 for the 2008–09 season along with Colomiers.
On June 8, the final of the Jean-Prat took place. Colomiers struck early with a try in the fourth minute by Morgan Saout, but US Bressane's Mathieu Chabaud took 3 points back with a penalty kick 11 minutes later. The score at the end of the first half was 5-3 to Colomiers. Early into the second half, Pascal Vignard scored a try for Colomiers and Frédéric Pujo completed the following conversion that distanced the scoreline even more. With the match seemingly all wrapped up with less than 5 minutes to play, US Bressane caved and allowed 3 tries in that short time span. The final score 36-3 to Colomiers, the champions of Fédérale 1 in 2008.
Play-down results (2007-08)
The final between Lourdes and La Seyne was, for the majority, a defensive match and offensive struggle. The match ended with a low score as a result of this with a try by Stéphane Arriat for Lourdes in the 59th minute followed by a missed conversion. Then, in the 73rd minute, Sébastien Decarre scored a penalty kick for La Seyne that made the match final score 5-3, giving Lourdes the title.
Promoted to Rugby Pro D2 (2007-08)
- US Bressane
Relegated from Fédérale 1 (2007-08)
- Nice Rugby
Jean-Prat Past Champions
- 2015–16: SO Chambéry
- 2014–15: Pays d'Aix RC
- 2013–14: US Montauban
- 2012–13: US Bressane
- 2011–12: US Colomiers
- 2010–11: AS Béziers
- 2009–10: US Carcassonne
- 2008–09: CA Lannemezan
- 2007–08: US Colomiers
- 2006–07: Stade Aurillacois
- 2005–06: UA Gaillac
- 2004–05: US Colomiers
- 2003–04: Pays d'Aix RC
- 2002–03: USA Limoges
- 2001–02: Lyon OU
- 2000–01: Oyonnax Rugby
- Mortimer, Gavin (18 August 2016). "French rugby enjoys a popularity boom as it looks to the future". Rugby World. Retrieved 12 February 2017.