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So You Think You Know About French Rugby? (Part IV)
Posted by southstander on May 18 2005 - 09:27:39

by Rob Peat

As most people will now know, in July we’re off to Perpignan to play London. From next year we’ll have the pleasure of annual fixtures against the Frenchman, but how much do you know about the game in France?

Over the next few weeks Puig-Aubert will try to enlighten us and in his fourth instalment, he talks about the influence of the post-war boom.

Chapter 4 - Post-War Boom

Post-War Boom, but not for long

Following the liberation of France rugby league was ‘unbanned’ but in a period of national reconciliation, deliberate collective amnesia was adopted with regards to many collaborators and their actions. No action was taken against the FFR or financial compensation provided to the French rugby league. The game was almost destroyed.

In 1939 the treizistes had become the first French side to beat England on English soil in any sport but despite the Vichy reverse it was, astonishingly, the early 1950s that marked the high point for the French.

In 1951 the French toured Australia and won a test series 2-1 with a potent brand of entertaining running rugby. They remain the most popular and skillful touring side to ever visit the country. In 1954 France contested the inaugural World Cup Final losing narrowly to Great Britain. Times were good.

The damage of Vichy had been done though and rugby league has never fulfilled the destiny that seemed clear pre-war and the fortunes of the game in France largely mirrored that of Britain from the mid 50s through to the early 1990s: clinging doggedly to what it held but struggling to grow beyond.

All through that period the malevolence of the unchastised union administrators remained. Apocryphal tales abound about the levels to which union adherants would go at local level in their vendetta against league. One example is the story of unsolved cases of arson at a south west car dealership that had recently had the temerity to get involved with league.

The game continued unabashed though and by the early 1990s a number of top French stars plied their trade with British clubs and each year Great Britain would still face the challenge of playing a French side which would always play with passion at home and was capable of pulling off a number of morale boosting victories. Rugby league remained a vibrant part of French sporting life, particularly in its south west heartlands.

However, in a cruel twist of fate events thousands of miles away were about to threaten the destruction of rugby league in France once and for all.

Read Chapter 1 - Puig-Aubert here...

Read Chapter 2 - The Beginnings here...

Read Chapter 3 - Dissolution and Disgrace here...

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