By Julien Pretot
PARIS, March 14 Stade Francais players have gone on strike over a planned merger with rival Parisian rugby club Racing 92, the head of the players' union told Reuters on Tuesday.
"They're on open-ended strike," Robins Tchale-Watchou said in a text message.
The strike, voted for almost unanimously by the players, means Stade Francais will not play at Castres on Saturday.
The clubs announced the surprise merger on Monday, saying it would create a new, stronger club that could enjoy a bigger fan base in the French capital.
Leading players in the Racing 92 squad include New Zealand World Cup winner Dan Carter and compatriot Joe Rokocoko, while Stade Francais feature the likes of French international Pascal Pape and Italian captain Sergio Parisse.
In recent years wealthy businessmen have invested large sums of money into French rugby clubs, allowing them to sign top players from around the world.
Racing are owned by French property billionaire Jacky Lorenzetti, while businessman Thomas Savare is the current club president of Stade Francais.
Most of the players from both clubs voiced concerns over the merger, which is widely seen by local media and rugby pundits as a takeover by Racing of cash-strapped Stade Francais.
The Paris city hall and the French federation also expressed their concern over the merger. (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Ken Ferris)