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So You Think You Know About French Rugby? (Part VI)
Posted by southstander on June 22 2005 - 10:16:53

by Rob Peat

As most people will now know, in just a fortnights time 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?

In the last instalment of his six part series, Puig-Aubert will try to enlighten us as he talks about Today and Tomorrow.

Chapter 6 - Today and Tomorrow

Travelling through SW France, particularly in the summer, you’d be forgiven for not realising that you were in one of the game’s hotbeds.

The reality is that the game in France is very much like England would be if you took away Superleague with NL1 mirroring France in most ways: quality, grounds, attendances etc.

You don’t see much evidence of this though. I’ve seen huge roadside ads for rugby but always rugby a quinze. In the large Intersport on the outskirts of Villeneuve I’ve seen various union international shirts and even one from Newcastle Falcons but not a Villeneuve Leopards jumper even when they were Champions of France. I’ve seen the best stocked rugby souvenir shop ever in the heart of Perpignan but it was of USAP the union club, with no UTC outlet anywhere. I’ve been tempted to stop at a services between Carcassonne and Lezignan by a ‘Exposition de rugby’ sign only to see a room full of quinziste tat. For anyone paying homage to this corner of the rugby league map it can feel utterly depressing.

However, scratch the surface and the game is still there. Try some pigeon French asking about rugby a treize in a bar and the previously surly waiter will start to treat you like a revered guest, previously suspicious locals will want to talk to you. You’ll suddenly find a group of generous, welcoming friends you never knew you had. If you’ll forgive a touch of melodrama, meeting treizistes feels not dissimilar to the clandestine meetings between British agents and the resistance in world war two: the treizistes are beleagured, oppressed and virtually invisible but despite everything still fight on with humbling stamina always looking to their friends in England and European Superleague with hope.

In recent years there have been signs of deliverance too. The Meditteranean and European Nations Cup provide something for aspiring players to aim for even if the support from spoiled British RL fans for the latter is lamentable. On the Road games have previously been held at Carcasonne and now Perpignan. French clubs compete in the Challenge Cup and seem to get that little bit better each year. All represent progress but next year is the big one: the admission of Perpignan to our flagship competition.

Read Chapter 1 - Puig-Aubert here...

Read Chapter 2 - The Beginnings here...

Read Chapter 3 - Dissolution and Disgrace here...

Read Chapter 4 - The Post War Boom here...

Read Chapter 5 - The European Superleague here...



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