What’s French Club Rugby Really Like Ben Mercer Reveals All

43
612

What’s French Club Rugby Really Like Ben Mercer Reveals All

England has more players. New Zealand have more success. South Africa has a more complex relationship with the sport.

But nowhere has a rugby culture quite like France.

In 2016, a world-record crowd of more than 99,000 watched Racing 92 win the Top 14 final at Barcelona’s Nou Camp.

Three years before, 50,000 people, about one in three of the city’s population, thronged Toulon’s port as their team celebrated a maiden Champions Cup.

And all around the country, in tiny towns and villages, you will find a set of posts and a team ready to defend their honour.

Back in 1999, a 12-year-old Ben Mercer watched his home town team Bath beaten by a swaggering Toulouse and was fascinated.

Clearly he is not the only one.

His book detailing his four seasons playing with lower-league Rouen – Fringes: Life on the Edge of Professional Rugby – tops the sport’s bestseller charts ahead of autobiographies by Sam Warburton, Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones.

These are some of the lessons that Mercer, who also played for Cornish Pirates, Plymouth Albion, Bristol and Blaydon, learned across the Channel.

The national team’s champagne rugby may have lost some fizz, but is there still a maverick streak running through the French game?

“Rouen were in the fourth tier of French rugby when I arrived and the quality of the opposition was very variable,” remembers Mercer.

“But it didn’t matter if they were good or bad, each team could have 10 minutes when they would be flinging offloads and everything would stick.

“You could be playing a terrible team and suddenly they would be like the Barbarians.

“If they are losing, they would either make no effort at all or throw everything to the wall and go ‘full French’. If it came off, it was irresistible.”

The tactics varied depending on venue though, with home matches coming with an obligation to put on a show.

“At home, you are defending your town. It is a big theme in the dressing room pre-match and you have the freedom to try and break the game. But away, there is little expectation you are going to win. Or that the referee will call the game correctly.

“So tactics for away matches are very conservative. We would go into damage limitation mode. Some of the people who would be yelling in the team talk at home, would just quietly strap up and jog out.”

…the bad…

Sebastien Vahaamahina’s elbow and Mohamed Haouas’ fist might have cost France their chances at last year’s Rugby World Cup and this year’s Six Nations respectively. French club rugby has a reputation for things going similarly south on the disciplinary front.

“It’s definitely worse,” says Mercer when he compares the level of violence in the game to that in England.

“I remember an away game in Paris where I nudged a full-back after chasing a high ball and he turned round and punched me full in the face.

“The ref blew up and I was thinking he would be off and we would be a man up, but instead it was ‘calm down, scrum down, home ball’.

“All the matches were filmed but the cameraman would turn the camera away if a punch-up broke out so that nobody would be punished too severely at a later date.”

There was one particular piece of foul play that is still deployed.

“During my years playing in England I got eye-gouged only once,” said Mercer.

“In France though it happened quite regularly. While in the UK it is culturally unacceptable now, there some of the older guys especially would kind of chuckle about it.”

…and the culinary

Rather than the protein and steamed vegetable staple he was used to in England, Mercer found Rouen’s priorities were pleasure over musculature.

“Diet is not a consideration for most of the players I was with,” he said.

“They are very into eating proper meals – but are not really interested in the nutrition behind it. Why shouldn’t it be confit de canard [roast duck, preserved in goosefat]?

“Every lunchtime would be a three-course meal with a little starter, a big main followed up with a little compote or some gateau.

Yerry Mina Everton Defender Set To Miss Season Restart

“It extended to alcohol as well. We had a training camp where some of the boys had pints with lunch and then headed back out onto the pitch.

“If you were at a sponsors’ event it would be considered rude and obstructive to not have a drink.

“The top line was that if you were playing well, nobody cared about your strength and conditioning.”

Upwardly mobile

https://www.bbc.com

During this year’s Six Nations, Mercer did a double take to see Anthony Bouthier line up for France.

Five years before, Bouthier had been on an opposing team in the third tier of French club rugby.

“We had played away at Vannes and I remember him jogging past our fly-half for a try,” Mercer said.

“He looked a pretty tidy player but then so did their fly-half, who has not gone on to play at the top level.

“There seems to be more mobility of talent between the divisions. There are certainly a few of my former team-mates from Rouen in the Top 14, one of whom, Wilfrid Hounkpatin, was called up to the French squad as well this year.”

What’s French Club Rugby Really Like Ben Mercer Reveals All

43 COMMENTS

  1. My spouse and i were absolutely ecstatic that Raymond managed to round up his preliminary research because of the precious recommendations he was given in your web pages. It is now and again perplexing to just be making a gift of thoughts many people might have been making money from. And we grasp we have got the blog owner to be grateful to for that. All the explanations you’ve made, the simple site navigation, the relationships you help foster – it is everything overwhelming, and it’s really aiding our son in addition to the family feel that the article is interesting, which is certainly quite mandatory. Thank you for the whole thing!

  2. Wow! This can be one particular of the most useful blogs We’ve ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Fantastic. I’m also an expert in this topic so I can understand your effort.

  3. Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having problems locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an email. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it grow over time.

  4. I?d need to talk to you right here. Which is not something I usually do! I enjoy reviewing an article that will make people think. Also, thanks for enabling me to comment!

  5. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don’t know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

  6. I am just commenting to make you know what a useful encounter our princess went through reading through yuor web blog. She discovered lots of pieces, most notably what it’s like to have a marvelous coaching style to have most people without problems master certain tortuous topics. You really surpassed visitors’ desires. Thanks for imparting the warm and friendly, healthy, explanatory and in addition easy tips about this topic to Julie.

  7. Hey there, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, superb blog!

  8. I definitely wanted to send a message to express gratitude to you for all of the fabulous tactics you are placing on this site. My rather long internet search has finally been recognized with really good know-how to talk about with my family members. I ‘d declare that many of us website visitors actually are undeniably fortunate to be in a good website with very many awesome people with very beneficial concepts. I feel very much fortunate to have encountered your site and look forward to plenty of more cool minutes reading here. Thanks a lot once again for everything.

  9. Hello my friend! I want to say that this article is awesome, great written and include approximately all significant infos. I¡¦d like to look extra posts like this .

  10. I’ll right away grasp your rss as I can’t find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly permit me know so that I may subscribe. Thanks.

  11. I¡¦ll immediately clutch your rss feed as I can’t find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly let me recognize so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  12. You could certainly see your skills in the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

  13. Aw, this was a truly nice article. In suggestion I want to place in creating such as this furthermore? taking some time and also real effort to make a great article? but what can I say? I hesitate alot as well as never seem to obtain something done.

  14. Aw, this was an actually good article. In concept I wish to put in writing similar to this in addition? taking time as well as actual effort to make a very good post? yet what can I say? I procrastinate alot and never seem to obtain something done.

  15. Thank you so much for giving everyone an exceptionally pleasant possiblity to read from this website. It’s always so useful and stuffed with amusement for me and my office colleagues to visit your web site on the least three times in 7 days to learn the fresh tips you will have. And of course, I’m so certainly satisfied for the terrific strategies you serve. Some two ideas in this post are easily the best we have all ever had.

  16. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful articles. In addition, the perfect travel as well as medical insurance system can often relieve those problems that come with visiting abroad. Some sort of medical crisis can shortly become costly and that’s sure to quickly put a financial problem on the family’s finances. Having in place the excellent travel insurance bundle prior to leaving is definitely worth the time and effort. Cheers

  17. Some truly superb blog posts on this site, appreciate it for contribution. “He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.” by Benjamin Franklin.

  18. I just couldn’t depart your site prior to suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the standard info a person provide for your visitors? Is gonna be back often in order to check up on new posts

  19. Thanks for some other magnificent article. The place else could anybody get that type of info in such an ideal method of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such info.

  20. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  21. I think other web site proprietors should take this website as an model, very clean and wonderful user genial style and design, as well as the content. You’re an expert in this topic!

  22. Hi, Neat post. There’s a problem with your website in internet explorer, would test this… IE still is the market leader and a huge portion of people will miss your fantastic writing due to this problem.

  23. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here