Rugby: Montpellier to conquer its first title of champion of France

A “remake”, but not a revenge. Since the start of this week which has led them, Friday June 24, to the final of the French rugby championship against Castres, at the Stade de France, the Montpellier residents have been spreading the message. To convince themselves of this, the people of Hérault have a few arguments. Of their workforce, only a handful were from the lost final, in 2018, against these same Castres, in the scenario of the season.

Dominating the season four years ago, Montpellier Hérault Rugby already seemed to hold the Top 14 cup with one hand, finally snatched by a Castres Olympique tumbling into the final after finishing the exercise in sixth position. This year, the roles have been rebalanced: the turn of Castres to approach the last step in the costume of leader, against Montpellier certainly second in the championship, but who come back from afar.

Bad reputation

The defeat in the 2018 final had left traces and a disappointment commensurate with the means deployed to achieve it. In 2011, a few weeks before its first Top 14 final, the club was bought by French billionaire Mohed Altrad. A team of new rich then set up, without “Being consistent in high performance for ten, eleven years”, acknowledged current coach Philippe Saint-André at a press conference last week. For these galactics from Montpellier, the failure of 2018 is then experienced as ” a trauma “, does he slip The cross. Consequence: in the winter of 2021, the club is on the verge of relegation. As if to remind the institution “to its young history”, and the players “to humility”, considers Philippe Saint-André, to whom then returns the sign of providential man.

That year, the former winger of the XV of France (69 selections in the 1990s) will get away with a tenth place and even a trophy at the European Challenge, the “small” European cup of the oval ball. Six years after his time as coach of the France team, concluded by elimination in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup against the All Blacks, and a decade after his departure from Toulon, Saint-André had taken advantage of his good understanding with Mohed Altrad to find a coaching bench. The two men have known each other since the failed takeover attempt by the entrepreneur of the English club Gloucester, in the early 2000s, when the former player had begun his conversion. “In addition to his financial contribution, Mohed also gives a lot of his person, he is involved in the project which aims to give back space to the training center”, supports Philippe Saint-André.

A referee in the staff

If the group seems more solid in the game this season, certain weaknesses still surface. Like their setback in the European Cup against Leinster last January, the heaviest ever suffered by a tricolor club in the competition. To continue his recovery, the manager was able to count on a “very complementary staff”.

In addition to his two assistants Jean-Baptiste Élissalde and Olivier Azam, recently extended, like him, until 2025, the technician notably surrounded himself with the former referee Alexandre Ruiz. A reinforcement that is part of the new trend of clubs to attach the services of ex-whistle attendants. All the more effective as the Montpellier owed in part their defeat in 2018 to their too many faults, offering penalties to Castres who did not ask for so much.

“The MHR was a very penalized team, this is no longer the case. You also enter into the psychology of the referee. It helps the players to know what level of aggression to put, to better manage these interventions, ” explained this week to The Team former Hérault player Benjamin Fall, in the losing side four years ago.

But if the emotional parameter can finish making Montpellier look like the favorite, Friday evening, on the occasion of the last match of his career for Guilhem Guirado, Philippe Saint-André applies for his part to “be careful” so that victory, synonymous with the first shield of Brennus, like defeat, does not start again “the stability of the club” : We are creating a different story. So yes, recruitment is less flamboyant, but we take second division guys, who come for the sports project, people who are already good people. »


Tensions in the organizing committee of the Rugby World Cup

A survey published Wednesday, June 22 by The Team shed light on the deleterious climate reigning within the organizing committee of the next Rugby World Cup, which will take place in France at the start of the 2023 school year. The Ministry of Sports immediately contacted the labor inspectorate on the basis of“worrying factors” reported by the committee’s 70 employees. About fifteen members suffer, according to their testimony to the sports daily, a “management by terror”. “At the moment, at least six of them are off work, most of them for overwork, anxiety and depression…”, adds the newspaper, while” around twenty “ have already left their post.



Swimming, rugby, athletics: the sports world is taking up the issue of transgender people

From swimming pools to rugby pitches, via athletics tracks, the world of sport is seizing on the issue of transgender athletes… to postpone it until later. On Tuesday June 21, the International Rugby League Federation (IRL) announced in a press release that transgender people could not “not participate in international women’s rugby matches” as long as one “full inclusion policy” would not have been started.

Although this decision prohibits transgender players from playing in the next Women’s World Cup in the discipline scheduled for October and November in England, the IRL expressed “his belief that rugby league is a game for everyone and that everyone can play our sport”.

Between inclusion and sports equity

Between the inclusion of transgender people and the guarantee of sporting equity for athletes born male and who have become female, while ensuring “so that everyone benefits from a fair hearing”, the body felt it needed further consultation and research to reach a decision, hoped “in 2023”.

His statements come two days after another half-hearted announcement, coming from swimming. At the end of an extraordinary congress on Sunday, and while the long course world championships are being disputed this week in Budapest (Hungary), the International Swimming Federation (Fina) has scheduled the opening of a category reserved for transgender swimmers, on which a ” work group “. “I don’t want an athlete to be told they can’t compete at the highest level,” declared its president, Husain Al Musallam, on Sunday June 19.

At the same time, the Fina decided that athletes born male and who became female could only compete in female categories, or validate female world records, if they became female before puberty. According to its medical committee – one of three commissioned by Fina along with groups of lawyers and sportsmen – transgender women retain “bigger lungs and hearts, longer bones, bigger feet and hands”which are not lost “with the suppression of hormones”, giving them an edge over other born female swimmers.

For athletics, “biology trumps gender”

While Fina’s speech comes three months after American student Lia Thomas became the first transgender swimmer to win a university title, sparking widespread controversy, it is also part of the reflection carried out since last summer. by the International Olympic Committee. At the time, he had left it to the discretion of each sport to assess the possible “disproportionate advantage” athletes who have become transgender.

In athletics, transgender women must present, over a period of at least twelve months preceding a competition, a sufficiently low level of testosterone, a hormone which plays a major role in the development of muscle mass and thus conditions power or speed. of these athletes.

“If we need to adjust the protocols in the future, we will,” said the president of the International Athletics Federation, Sebastian Coe, on Sunday in Budapest, stating that if he had to choose between ” equity “ and ” inclusion “he would line up “always on the side of fairness”: “We have always believed, and we constantly repeat, that biology trumps gender and we will continue to review our rules in this direction. »



Rugby: Castres Olympique, the success of a club rooted in its territory

The life in blue. And white. In Castres, it’s like that. The colors of the rugby club, Castres Olympique (CO), brighten up the local mood. Even more these last days of electric patience before the semi-final of the Top 14, Friday June 17 in the evening in Nice, against the big red and black neighbors of Toulouse. In the small town of Tarn, shopkeepers are playing the game in the shop window, the giant screen is ready on Place Soult, and 40,000 inhabitants are waiting to vibrate in unison.

However, it is not the exceptional nature of the event that mobilizes the city. Since 2012, this is the fifth time that CO has reached the last four. And his initials were engraved on the Brennus shield given to the champion twice, in 2013 and 2018. Castres is well and truly used to the top. Nevertheless, she never shuns her pleasure, entirely dedicated to her oval passion.

A unique proximity with the players

“Castres is an isolated sub-prefecture, where life can sometimes be complicated, and where rugby is an opportunity to unite around a common cause. It’s a source of pride and a very strong identity factor, probably more so than elsewhere. » The one who thus poses the picture is Pierre-Yves Revol, president of the club since 1988 (except between 2008 and 2014), and also president of the Pierre-Fabre Foundation, the pharmaceutical giant from Tarn (2.5 billion euros in revenue in 2021) which abounds the coffers of the club.

The CO is probably not the Tom Thumb that the boss takes pleasure in describing, but he does display a singularity in a rugby landscape dominated by large cities. “We have the tenth budget of the Top 14, and to remain competitive, we need a different recipecontinues Pierre-Yves Revol. Our ingredients? First, an ability to detect unknown talents. Then, to keep them as long as possible by promoting our values, and in particular the important interactions with the population. Finally, essential transmission work, with many former players in the management, retraining that we also support locally. »

In fact, if the CO has players of excellence like the back Julien Dumora, the Fijian center Vilimoni Botitu or the Australian second line Tom Staniforth, he never points out his individualities, always preferring to praise the collective. The players have integrated the discourse and also fade away without hesitating behind the group. Are internationals rare? So much the better, the CO keeps its troops, when the leaders of the championship have to deal with duplicates. The keys to success this year are also there, with the team finishing first in the regular season for the first time.

A quarter of the population at the stadium

No stars at CO therefore, where everyone remains accessible. “There is a real closeness with the players», assures Didier Hardy, former soldier of the 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (RPIMa) of Castres, another pillar of the city, and president of the Friends of Rugby, a supporters club born in 2012. “A real familiarity sets in, without it weighing on them, and the players appreciate it. Often, they don’t want to leave anymore. The audience, very family-oriented, pays them back. Even during Covid and games behind closed doors, we were outside the stadium with the sound to support them. »

President of Pouvoir Castres, another association of supporters created in 2005, Aurélie Joligard-Ouertani also applauds the availability of the players. “Seventeen of them are the sponsors of our association, and they very often come to the evenings that we organize or to help us. I’m not sure that’s the case everywhere. »

His brother Julien, ex-president of the association, evokes for his part a “true communion of spirit: during the Covid, we were the first club where the supporters agreed not to be reimbursed for their subscription, and the players the first to agree to a reduction in wages. When you see that a quarter of the city’s population ends up at the Pierre-Fabre stadium every other Sunday, I find that quite beautiful.”.

Pierre Fabre, the name of the creator of pharmaceutical laboratories, who died in 2013, remains unifying in the Tarn city. “It all starts with him, in fact, with his lifelong loyalty to the territory, more patriarch than big bosssummarizes Aurélie Joligard-Ouertani. He remains the dad of the city and of the CO, really. »

Pierre-Yves Revol now ensures the heritage, even evoking the notion of pleasure “wider than sporting or aesthetic pleasure. This team joins the trajectory of the Pierre Fabre group, with one mission: to promote this city. After our title in 2013, many doubted the sustainability of this adventure. We are still here, hoping that we can continue to value this territory for a long time”.


Pierre-Henry Broncan, the leader of men

For ten years, the CO has been working to recruit coaches in line with the club’s philosophy. After the duo of Laurent, Travers and Labit, architects of the first title in 2013, then Christophe Urios at the maneuver for that of 2018, it is Pierre-Henry Broncan who has been in charge since December 2020. The 48-year-old technician, passed by Auch, Stade Toulouse and Bath in England, is in line with the values ​​of Tarn. No sweeping declarations, an incredible knowledge of world rugby which allows him to unearth rare profiles, a pragmatic conception of the game. It’s not always spectacular, but it often wins. Perfect summary of the CO.



“Emotions without supporters, there are none”: when Toulouse vibrates for its football

The bus rips through the purple mist. An explosion of smoke greets the Toulouse Football Club team which arrives at the Stadium of the Pink City. They are like that, the ultra supporters. Their hopes often go up in smoke. But their greatest joys too. And no doubt, this Saturday, May 7 will be a party: the opportunity to celebrate the return of “téfécé” in the elite next season, a certainty acquired in accounting terms two weeks earlier, and, all are convinced, the Ligue 2 title.

→ READ. When our emotions govern us, our file

To experience this ultimate emotion, you still have to beat the visitors from Nîmes on this penultimate day of the championship. Exactly 27,868 spectators are waiting for this big evening, the second highest attendance of the season. On the bridge leading to the sports arena, Abdel applauds the influx of the crowd: “It’s really nice to see people and such an atmosphere again, welcomes the sexagenarian. The Stadium, for a long time, it remained dull. But tonight, look at the people, the kids there, with their parents, the happy faces they have. It’s not beautiful, is it? »

→ READ. The glory day of the Blues has arrived!


Seeing Toulouse waking up in this way after years of lethargy in Ligue 1 culminating in a descent to the second division at the end of the 2019-2020 season, is a real comfort for Alain Grolier, the president of the TFC supporters club, loyal for more 35 years old. Acquired by the American investment fund RedBird Capital Partners, the team rebuilt around young unknown players dominated this year with shimmering football, as evidenced by the record for goals in Ligue 2 (82). “During certain phases of the game, the stands rise so much they delight us, enthuses Alain Grolier, and I can clearly see the emotion circulating: the eyes are sparkling, believe me. And we find a certain communion, a sharing with the other groups of supporters. »

→ FILE. Football, the most popular sport in the world

The ultras in particular have regained vigor, in the forefront of which the Indians Tolosa, the loudest of all, born in 1993. Paul Cometto was the main animator throughout the 2000s, and even if he now lives in Paris, he managed this season to follow a dozen matches of this TFC back in favor. “I’m still a supporter, and it’s a passion that can’t be lived alone, on your sofa, loose the 38-year-old fan. The collective dimension is essential. The emotional power is increased tenfold when shared in this way. It’s like a drug. Intense. TFC is a difficult club to love. He rarely makes people happy. So if we stay, it’s mainly for the collective. At the Indians, I have had brothers and sisters for years. »

→ READ. 2018 World Cup: After the victory of the blues, relive the evening of jubilation in France and around the world


And these brothers and sisters hold hands tight this May 7th. A sumptuous “tifo” – this visual animation organized by the ultras – awaits the TFC in the east corner of the Stadium. “Honor to the champions of the city”, can we read, with large portraits of the players presented as knights of Occitania. The songs tumble down with force, a forest of arms pushes in rhythm, the vibration spreads in all the enclosure. Against the course of the game, Nîmes nevertheless leads at the break (0-1). The Stadium does not let go of its men. Who will turn the situation around. At the final whistle, 2-1 for Toulouse, all the stands surge onto the lawn. General jubilation, the announcer in a swoon, the players soon on the balcony. They brandish their champion trophy and the crowd exults.

→ IN IMAGES. The crowd cheers the champions on the Champs-Élysées

“Outside of sport, few sectors offer this opportunity to see people so different but happy together, comments Paul Cometto. It’s good to create something common and to get out of exclusively individualistic relationships. Among the Indians, for example, we forbid mobile phones in the stands. It is a question of looking at each other less in order to be in the collective. The little video you can post on Instagram has nothing to do with what you’re going to experience with the band. »


The evening never ends. In the bowels of the Stadium, the players watch the film. Goalkeeper Maxime Dupe: “We play football to experience emotions, and emotions without supporters, there are none. And tonight, my 4-year-old son may still remember it in forty years, and I get chills, it’s beautiful. » An evening that remains engraved in the memories, the TFC must go back to October 1986 to find the indelible trace. That year, the team of Argentines Beto Marcico and Alberto Tarantini eliminated in the first round of the UEFA Cup the Naples of the already legendary Maradona. In one of the shuttles which brings the supporters back to the city center after the victory against Nîmes, two sexagenarians do not fail to refer to the “great era”. Hoping to experience a new youth in the future.

The next day, Place du Capitole, it is again the whole team on the balcony of the town hall. A tradition to which Toulouse is much more accustomed with the cousins ​​of rugby, the Stadium and its palmares as long as the arm which has always left the TFC in the shadows. The Tolosa Indians provide the slap, even if the voices are a tad hoarse after a long night of celebrations. A septuagenarian couple on a walk enjoys: “It’s rare such enthusiasm for football here, but we must recognize that the supporters know how to do it. They are louder than the rugby crowd. There were no overflows, and that’s good. After this period of political tension where we are divided and confused, it’s rather invigorating to find harmony, isn’t it? » Whether.



European rugby champion, La Rochelle invites itself to the table of the big ones

A giant leap. By overthrowing the great favorites of Leinster in the final moments of the match (24-21), Stade Rochelais won the European Cup, the most distinguished competition in European rugby, at the same time as the first major trophy in its history, Saturday May 28, in Marseille. The Maritime club has continued to progress since its rise eight years ago in the Top 14, the French first division championship. Since then, they have played three finals: first in the European Challenge in 2019, in the Top 14, then in the European Cup last season against Stade Toulouse. Without success so far.

First thwarted by their own indiscipline (13 penalties conceded) and the steamroller Leinster have trained this campaign – dispatching Montpellier (89-7) in the group stage and Toulouse (40-17) in the previous round –, the Yellow and Black finally “conjure fate”according to their emblematic third line Romain Sazy, thanks to a try from substitute Arthur Retière, who came to conclude the last charge one minute from the final whistle (79e).

“On the last sequence, when we find ourselves in front of our bend (of supporters)I can assure you that it carries a lot. The supporters are as much European champions as we are », reported in a press conference Grégory Alldritt, the captain of the Rochelais, reduced to 14 for ten minutes at the end of the game, but pushed by the public of the Vélodrome stadium won over to their cause. “We really thought we were going to win. I told the players. They sometimes thought I was crazy, with my obsession for the haircut, but hey… We’re champions! », his trainer, Ronan O’Gara, curled up at the same time.

The O’Gara method

This obsession for victory, the Irishman owes it first to his playing career, he who still holds the record for matches played (110) and points scored (1,365) in the European Cup, raised twice, in 2006 and 2008 under the tunic of Munster – the Celtic rival of Leinster. He remains since his retirement from the field, nine years ago, the best scorer of the XV of Clover. The same requirement guided him when he became assistant coach of Racing 92, winning the title of French champion in 2016, before leaving to redo his lines in New Zealand.

Back in the Top 14 in La Rochelle at the start of the 2019 school year, O’Gara won the trust of the highly respected Vincent Merling, president at the helm for thirty years in Charente-Maritime, to occupy the bench as head coach and inherit a team with long teeth but who continues to miss the essential: “He often says that playing a final is not interesting, what matters is to lift the trophy”, confided the third row from La Rochelle Wiaan Liebenberg in a press conference, before the final on Saturday.

La Rochelle, 4th French European champion

After a “breathtaking final”, as Emmanuel Macron rejoiced on Twitter, Ronan O’Gara joined Toulouse coach Ugo Mola (1996, 2021) and his Leinster counterpart, Leo Cullen (2009, 2011, 2012, 2018), all three crowned European champion as a player then as a coach. This success in his pocket, the Irishman also deprives his former rival Leinster from joining Toulouse and its five European Cups as the most successful club in the competition. The Rochelais become the fourth French formation crowned at this level, and bring a little more force to the tricolor wind which is currently blowing on ovality in Europe, after the coronation last spring of an undefeated XV of France at the Tournament. of the six nations – you had to go back twelve years to find such a performance – or that of the Lyonnais on Toulon, Friday May 27, in the final of the European Challenge (30-12).

Of the last ten winners of the great European Cup, five were French, joining England at the head of the most crowned countries since the creation of the competition in 1996. Since the round of 16, the Rochelais had not had to face only clubs from the Top 14, overcoming Bordeaux, Montpellier and then Racing 92. “I can take a lifelong vacation today!” », ironically Ronan O’Gara after the final. There is no doubt that they will be short and studious to acculturate the Rochelais now to good habits, after having installed them this year at the table of the greats.



England still largely dominate women’s rugby

There was, however, this beautiful moment of euphoria. This test planted with authority from the fourth minute, and the Bleues opened the scoring by affirming their ambition of the day: to win in Bayonne, Saturday April 30, their sixth grand slam in the Six Nations Tournament, the first since 2018. And above all to beat these English women posting nine consecutive victories against the XV of France.

→ ANALYSIS. Rugby: the women’s XV of France comes out of the shadows

But the joy was short-lived. Because the steamroller of the XV of the Rose started, flattening all the hopes, the desires to do well. Strong in their power and also taking advantage of the weaknesses of the Blues in conquest, the English confiscated the leather to accompany it behind the goal line. Three attempts thus chained together, an inexorable wave, sweeping away everything in its path. A minimalist but terribly effective rugby. And against which the Blues have not found a solution.

The excellence of an English championship renovated in 2017

“The fact of the game is our lack of balls”, could comment Thomas Darracq, the sports manager of the France team. In fact, too often penalized or countered on the keys (8 ball losses, a huge waste), the Blue could hardly express themselves. Hence the “frustration” what Annick Hayraud mentioned after the defeat, emphasizing: “We will have to find solutions. » It is therefore the English who have enriched their record, offering themselves their tenth grand slam in the Six Nations Tournament, and their 19th consecutive victory in the competition.

However, this unchallenged domination owes nothing to chance. England has been betting big on the development of women’s rugby since 2017. In September of that year, the Rugby Football Union (RFU, the English rugby federation) professionalized the national championship of its players, renamed “Premier 15s”. The competition goes from eight to ten teams, franchises mostly from the women’s sections of the big clubs (Saracens, Harlequins, Wasps, etc.). The authority devotes nearly 3 million euros over three years to its championship, and thus hopes to cause a boom in female licenses in clubs. The objective is to reach 50,000 licensees in 2021.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, thwarts this momentum for a time. In 2020, the championship loses its official sponsor (a famous brand of crisps), and the budget is revised downwards. But the RFU does not spare its efforts so that the adaptation is only cyclical. A new partner, the insurance giant Allianz, is on board for the following season, and the RFU takes the opportunity to increase the salary cap that clubs can devote to women’s salaries this year (from €70,000 to €140,000).

A doubling of licensees

The sum can obviously make you smile in comparison with the 6 million euros available to the male Premiership clubs. But it testifies to the desire for progress of a women’s championship whose players are now semi-professional, combining rugby and part-time work (half the week). A situation that does not concern 28 of the players of the national team, benefiting from special contracts allowing them to devote themselves 100% to rugby.

The Premier 15s suddenly displays quality matches, which is starting to interest broadcasters. The BBC broadcasts one match a day on its digital platform, and pay-TV BT Sport broadcasts the semi-finals and the final of the championship (mid-May). So many assets that are attracting more and more young English women. The RFU did not reach its objective of 50,000 licensees, but it nevertheless doubled its workforce to 40,000 licensees (26,000 in France).

So of course, the picture is not yet idyllic with most clubs “lose money again”, recently acknowledged Sue Day, the financial director of the RFU. Emphasizing that it was about betting on “long-term development”, with the 2025 Women’s World Cup in sight, which England should host. Can the XV of the Rose thus maintain its lead over the other nations? Next element of response to the 2022 World Cup (from October 8 to November 12 in New Zealand), where France will find England in its pool (with South Africa and Fiji). Les Bleues know that there is still a lot of work to compete.


The difficult road to professionalism

If France can at least resist the English machine, this 2022 Tournament has once again revealed how much other nations are struggling to exist. The English have crushed Scotland (57-5), Italy (74-0), Wales (58-5) and Ireland (69-0). In these countries, the professional structure of women’s rugby remains at half mast. In December 2021, around 60 current and former Irish players wrote to the government asking “significant change”. The Italians also remain 100% amateurs, when around thirty Scottish players benefit from assistance, but very partial. Only Wales are starting to follow the path set by France and England by professionalizing twelve of their players full-time this year, but without guarantee for next season.



In search of funding, the sports world seizes on NFTs

On May 17, the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club (CSSA) is launching its collection of “non-fungible tokens” (or NFT, for Non-Fungible Token). Sorry ? Who does what ? Yes, the Sedan football club, illustrious for its unexpected final of the Coupe de France in 1999 and its unexpected adventure in Ligue 1 the same year and continued until 2003, which today points to National 1 (the third division) , dare the bet NFT, these digital assets whose title of ownership is guaranteed by a particular technology, the blockchain.

→ EXPLANATION. What are NFTs, this new digital passion?

In concrete terms, the CSSA will produce exactly 11,011 digital cards bearing the image of the club’s mascot, a wild boar. Each is obviously unique, and these cards can be acquired from next May for a few “ethers”, a cryptocurrency competing with bitcoin. Buyers will then benefit from some special advantages involving them in the life of the club.

Leading sectors: luxury and sport

It is this dimension that its president, Marc Dubois, wants to emphasize first: “We want to expand and retain a community of fans well beyond our small department, which has less than 270,000 inhabitants”, he says. The economic dimension is obviously also present. Even if it is difficult for a National team to sell its image, any source of income is good to take “for a club born in 1919 and which has never managed to balance its accounts”summarizes Marc Dubois.

The CSSA is in fact not the only one to want to explore this innovative digital field. “The two sectors investing the most in this ecosystem today are luxury and sport”assures Emmanuelle Dubois, co-founder of the Coinception agency, which supports Sedan in its NFT offer.

In fact, not a day goes by without a club or athlete announcing their conversion to NFTs or other cryptoassets such as tokens. The success of the French start-up Sorare, which publishes collectible NFTs of some 6,000 footballers, valued at nearly 4 billion euros in the fall of 2021, is bound to inspire. In February 2022, one of his unique cards, that of Norwegian striker Erling Haaland, sold for more than €600,000.

→ EXPLANATION. Sorare becomes the most expensive start-up in France

The former coach of the XV of France (2007-2011) Marc Lievremont and the ex-footballer of the PSG Alain Roche, associated with the company Sponsorlive, hope to crunch the success with Fanlivecards, a collection dedicated to rugby launched this month of april. Tennis coach Patrick Miratoglou put a collection called “The Coach” on sale at the end of March, after which buyers could be invited to matches or personalized coaching sessions. In November 2021, Belgian Jumbo-Visma cyclist Wout Van Aert auctioned three “sporting moments”, NFTs of his victories in the 2021 Tour at Ventoux and on the Champs-Élysées, and the classic Strade Bianche in 2020. All sold for €47,000.

The risks of a very speculative universe

If these NFTs are later resold, each new transaction should earn a percentage for the champion and his team. For these rugby cards, Marc Lievremont promises 30% for clubs and 10% for players. “The current craze shows to what extent sports players are looking for new income, in particular to replace online bettors whose sponsorship is increasingly prohibited in Europe.underlines the economist Jérémie Bastien, teacher at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne. But for the time being, NFTs are not yet bringing them much, and it is above all the digital players who are doing well.”

→ ANALYSIS. Art, luxury and video games, NFT “digital tokens” are popular

Is the nascent market destined to develop to become unavoidable? Its strengths are real. “NFTs establish a direct link with supporters, which is very valuable from a marketing point of view, and these digital products being much easier to sell than traditional derivative products, they also make it possible to reach an audience all over the world”recalls economist Philippe Herlin, a specialist in monetary issues.

But the expert also points to the main limit of the system in the making: speculation. “When you buy an NFT, you are making a double bet. On the intrinsic value of the NFT first, which in the long term is not obvious: what will a Messi NFT be worth in five years? On the value of the cryptocurrency which is then used for exchanges, the course of which is also volatile. I am not sure that this double risk is well taken into account. »

It prevents. NFTs are on the rise, and clubs are watching with interest the technological promises of tomorrow, as observed by Emmanuelle Dubois, who concludes: “When our interlocutors hear about Web3, the new generation of the Internet, and virtual universes like the metaverse, they say to themselves that we shouldn’t miss the boat. »


Crazy about tokens

Tokens are another kind of digital “tokens”. Also sold in cryptocurrency, they allow passionate buyers to have certain privileges, for example to vote for the sentence to be inscribed on the armband of the captain of a football club. PSG, Manchester City, Juventus or Barcelona, ​​among others, publish it. About 3% of Lionel Messi’s salary at PSG is paid in tokens.

The basketball club L’Élan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez will innovate on April 26 by opening part of its capital to the general public in the form of tokens. “It will be a world first”has just announced the Courtepointe Sports Group, the American investor who bought the club in June 2021.



Last tribute to Aramburu, the former Argentinian rugby player killed by bullets

Hundreds of people, including big names in French and Argentine rugby, attended on Saturday March 26 in Biarritz the funeral of former player Federico Martin Aramburu, shot dead on March 19 in Paris, at the age of 42.

The majority of those present could not enter the Sainte-Eugénie church, on the seafront, and followed on a giant screen the ceremony in memory of the former Argentinian international (22 selections), twice crowned French champion with Biarritz Olympique (2005, 2006).

A tribute from the world of rugby

The remains of the one everyone nicknamed “Fédé” entered the church to the sound of the traditional Basque farewell song (“Agur Jauna”, “Farewell to the Great Man”) and in the presence of his wife, clinging to the arms of his two daughters. His coffin was carried by former Biarritz Olympique teammates, French internationals Thomas Lievremont and Nicolas Brusque, Argentinian Manuel Carizza and Shaun Hegarty, friend and associate of Aramburu, with whom he was seated in the Parisian restaurant where the drama took place.

Other big names in French and Argentine rugby – Dimitri Yachvili, Jérôme Thion, Imanol Harinordoquy -, as well as the presidents of the French Federation Bernard Laporte and the Ligue René Bouscatel were present in the bays of the church, such as Serge Blanco , former boss of the BO

The ceremony was celebrated in French and Spanish by Don Arnaud, a Biarritz priest friend of the Aramburu family, who described the deceased as “a man concerned with peace and revolted by injustice”.

On the pitch, a minute of applause was to be dedicated to him during all the Top 14 matches this weekend while the BO players planned to wear a T-shirt bearing his image during their warm-up and entry to the lawn in Montpellier, where they travel on Saturday.

Two suspects soon incarcerated

Federico Martin Aramburu was shot dead on March 19 in the early morning after an altercation in a bar-restaurant in the center of Paris, where he was to attend the France-England rugby match the same evening. He died on the spot as a result of his injuries.

Two militants from an ultra-right group are suspected of having shot him. One, a 31-year-old former student from the Parisian University of Assas, was indicted for “assassination” and locked up. The other, the main suspect, a 27-year-old former marine commando and member of the far-right GUD movement, is soon to be handed over to French authorities. He was arrested this week in Hungary while trying to travel to Ukraine. A 24-year-old woman suspected of “complicity in murder”was also imprisoned.



Rugby: the women’s XV of France comes out of the shadows

Whatever the result of the Women’s Six Nations Tournament, which begins this Saturday, March 26 (France plays against Italy on Sunday), French women’s rugby has already won the game. This is true for the French rugby sevens team, silver medalists at the Tokyo Games. As for the girls of the XV, who have piled up victories since the last World Cup in 2017, where they climbed on the third match of the podium.

→ ANALYSIS. Women’s sport at the cap of collective agreements

The following year, they followed up with a grand slam at the 2018 Six Nations Tournament, before continuing the following year with two even bigger victories. They beat for the first time in their history the Black Ferns (“black ferns”), the female counterpart of the All Blacks. They won another battle, symbolic this time, passing in the official documents from the name “Team of France women” to “XV of France women”. “For us it was a great victory and a strong symbol, we passed to the same rank as the boys”, explains Annick Heyraud, manager of the XV of France.

A more visible tournament

This year, the XV of France takes another step by participating in a tournament organized in the wake of the men’s tournament and no longer at the same time, as a curtain raiser or the day before. “It’s a very good thing for visibility, savors Brigitte Jugla, vice-president of the Federation, in charge of women’s rugby. The women’s tournament was postponed last year for the first time due to the pandemic, but the TV audiences, much better than during the old formula, convinced World Rugby (the international federation) to perpetuate the experience. »

This spring tournament, which falls into a low point in the sports news, is excellent for the morale of the players, who have been offered a sunny preparation camp in Corsica, far from the frost and the winter mud. The atmosphere is good in this women’s XV which remains on two new victories in the fall against the Ferns and is committed with optimism to the preparation of the World Cup, which will be held in October-November in New Zealand. . “We have never managed to grab a World Cup final, that’s our goal, and even better if possible”, continues Annick Heyraud.

Professional contracts

The 35 girls selected in the group have also recently been freed from financial worries, an essential luxury in high-level sport. Since 2018, the internationals have had a professional contract equivalent to three-quarters of the time allowing them, if they wish, to continue to carry out a small side activity during the off-peak season (many are physiotherapists, nurses or work in the person). “A giant step”, rejoices the manager, who owes a lot to the president of the Federation elected in 2016, Bernard Laporte, who has pushed women’s rugby a lot.

→ REREAD. For the Bleues du rugby, a year of waves to the soul

In the light since 2018, while the men’s XV was stalling, the Bleues are not afraid to return to the shadows after the boys’ grand slam. “All the teams in France are nourished by the success of others, continues Brigitte Jugla. The federation works by objectives: in 2021 it was the women’s VII in Tokyo (male septists were not qualified), in 2022 it’s the Grand Slam for boys and the World Cup for girls, before the Men’s World Cup in 2023 and again the VII in 2024 in Paris. We put the means fully into a team, and it works, everyone benefits, including the clubs ”.

Clubs still fallow

Les Bleues carry on their shoulders the future of club rugby, still fallow. The women’s XV actually works the opposite of other team sports, where the France team feeds on the performance of clubs and regional leagues. In the female oval, it is the XV of France which pulls the wagons and not the clubs which push. “When we play for the France team we are pros, but when we return to the club, we become amateurs again”, humorously explains the international Safi N’Diaye on the FFR website.

The Federation has all the trouble in the world to set up a coherent club championship, with teams of comparable strength. To achieve this, it used the exact opposite path to that of football, where it is the professional clubs that finance the training centers with their own money. For rugby, the clubs come to draw from the academies financed by the Federation, where young female shooters aged 14 to 18 are springing up.


Two Frenchwomen at the whistle

The progress of French women’s rugby also concerns the world of refereeing. Two French women, Aurélie Groizeleau and Doriane Domenjo, have been selected to officiate at the 2022 Women’s Six Nations Tournament. The first is very experienced, having officiated for three years at international level and regularly leads men’s Pro D2 matches (second division). The second begins at European level and will be content for the moment with appearances as linesman.



Rugby, the pass of ten for the XV of France

An avalanche of positive figures fell on the XV of France on the evening of Saturday March 19 at the Stade de France, filled with 79,176 spectators, a historic record for the enclosure of Saint-Denis in its new configuration. The Blues have therefore won their twenty-sixth Six Nations Tournament (1), their tenth Grand Slam and their eighth victory in a row. And they settle in second place in the world ranking of nations, just behind South Africa, which they will meet this fall.

→ ANALYSIS. The XV of France, or the art of the lightning transition

But behind these five victories in the Tournament, hides a less flashy but very evocative calculation. According to the statistics provided by the organization of the Tournament, the Blues are not first in any of the compartments of the game usually used to judge a collective performance. They have neither the best attack, nor the best defense, nor the greatest number of tries scored, these three symbolic titles going to Ireland, their second in the standings of this Tournament.

Attackers are the first defenders

It is therefore in other figures that we must look for the reasons for the new French strength hailed by all his opponents, in particular the English coach Eddy Jones who sportingly recognized that the Blues were above the lot. In rugby, the best attack is often the defense, it is in this compartment of the game that we find the reasons for the new strength of the band in Galthié, the coach who knew how to transform a generation of talented young players into warriors of every moment.

→ PORTRAIT. François Cros, the discreet essential of the XV of France

The three-quarters and the wingers, in principle appointed to run as quickly as possible towards the opponent’s goal, first signal themselves in the French organization by their… tackles. Even the conductor Antoine Dupont, in addition to an impressive offensive performance, is in the defensive maneuver, gleaning the title of best French tackler of this historic match.

A little hesitant in the first half, with an unusual clumsiness in certain easy passes, they turned the tide by closing ranks, erecting a wall on which the English waves crashed before taking the ebb in the face. Once the blue attackers had erected the first defenses preventing the team from retreating, the big ones took over and then transformed into attackers, relentless steamrollers.

Grégory Aldritt, keystone of the blue house

This infernal machine is to the credit of the pair Fabien Galthié-Raphael Ibanez, respectively coach and manager of a collective that they knew how to motivate and prepare to never let go. But also of the defense trainer Shaun Edwards, debauched in Wales and an essential player in the French system, of whom we speak little but who is the keystone of the blue house: number 8 and third center line Grégory Aldritt who connects defense and attack. It will not have escaped any of the Stade de France spectators nor probably the millions of television viewers in front of their screens that the match changed in the 61st minute on the famous “8-9”: a pass from the third line (number 8) to his scrum half (number 9) Antoine Dupont who goes on trial and makes this match go down in history.

→ REREAD. Rugby, France at a Grand Slam match

But the collective is only worth the finish. And in this area, the master tacticians of the XV of France are quite simply lucky to be able to count on some of the most brilliant individuals of the young generation of world rugby. Some of these boys are not world champions under 20 for nothing.

In all lines, the XV of France has at least one player that coaches around the world would steal from us: Cyril Baille or Julien Marchand on the front line, Cameron Woki in second, Grégory Aldritt in third. And of course the talented Romain N’Tamack, Damian Penot, or Gaël Fickou behind.

Antoine Dupont, the master asset

Without forgetting the boss Antoine Dupont, crowned best player in the world last year and who seems on his way to a second crown. Intractable in defense, inspired in the animation and above all visionary in his kicks which most often send the opponent very far in his camp, the scrum half is the fatal weapon, this exceptional player which any collective needs to dominate the world.

Without Nikola Karabatic, French handball players would not have the track record they are known for and French footballers might not have been world football champions without Kylian Mbappé in 2018 or Zinédine Zidane in 1998. of scrum since the international retirement of Morgan Parra, France has found its Mozart which could bring it even higher, on the second summit expected for this generation: the World Cup organized by France, which will begin on September 8, 2023 by a France-New Zealand.