France the French way


Rugby World Cup 2012 – in France

Posted: 2011-10-20

The Rugby World Cup mounts to its ultimate crescendo and conclusion. New Zealand to face France in the final match of the Rugby World Cup in Auckland.

I am writing this from Christchurch, where despite this city losing the ability to host their World Cup matches, has still been able to get in to the excitement of the tournament. Many cars display flags and many buildings and homes display All Black flags or various country flags. In Wellington and Auckland the tension has risen to fever pitch with nearly every second car displaying flags supporting their respective teams – predominantly proudly supporting the All Blacks.

In New Zealand, the CEO of NZ Rugby World Cup, Martin Snedden has called for the country to be a stadium of 4 million people.  We can now see this. But what is the situation in France?

In France they have a population of 60 million, where football rules, and rugby is very much considered a minority sport. Do the French know about the Rugby World Cup?

Television Channels

On all the major TV channels their web sites offer minor headlines to the RWC, and this week even there has been more interest in the Champions League Football, and the election of the Socialist Presidential candidate. But most channels on their weather forecasts include a weather forecast for New Zealand (for the finals of the Cup), as well as their local French weather.

France 2 TV station has a minor link through to the RWC in the form of a blog. “Le Blog de Sylvain Marconnet” sums up the feelings of the French people over the RWC. On this blog there have been heated discussions on the merits of the team being in the final through to those who support their coaches sentiment that “(they) are going to be the champions”.


Through all the daily papers there are minor front page links to RWC coverage. Rugby is most popular in the south-west and central France so of course papers in these areas such as in Toulouse, Bordeaux and Clermont-Ferrand have been giving the rugby more detailed coverage. In this paper in the South-West of France you will struggle to find articles on the rugby when compared with this local Auckland newspaper?

It has been interesting to see that in La Provence newspaper, which covers Toulon and Marseille, there was more coverage on the Toulon Rugby results, than for the French team results. The same was the case in the Charente Libre newspaper near Bordeaux which started its sports write-up on the local Cognac rugby club.

In Brittany the Ouest France paper didn’t have any big headlines for the RWC, but because they are not a rugby playing region they had included on their news site an impressive interactive “rugby” page for explaining the rules, field positions, and even rugby kit worn.

It is clear that as this week has progressed towards the final matches that the media coverage has increased much the same as the blood pressure of supporters in NZ has!

In the Street

In New Zealand each city has a “FanZone” where supporters can watch the matches together. In Toulouse these were the crowds (see below) at the French semi-final match in their central square. But they have a dilemma this weekend. On Sunday morning in Toulouse the local marathon is being run from this same central square making it impossible to screen the live rugby coverage from the same place! One of the local politicians has suggested that they watch the match with a two hour delay! Somehow I can’t imagine that being a popular

20,000 people watched the semi-finals in the centre of Toulouse. Photo:

In Provence, which is not your traditional rugby area, coverage in the streets has been non-stop, and it is the main topic of discussion at the markets and in the bars. Presently bars and town squares are frantically setting up large screens for the viewers on Sunday morning.

To many viewers it has seemed that the French team have been rather “splintered” as a group, which is a danger for them, but everyone knows of the risks they can front, and I think you will find the All Blacks giving them plenty of respect!   Everyone has known for some time that there was a lot of disagreement between the team and their coach Lèvremont, who has nothing to lose because he is retiring after the World Cup.   But in the back of their minds they have this double view that on one hand they have a group of super talented players, yet on the other hand in their coach’s words “we have a team of spoilt brats”.

“My baker in Pessac sur Dordogne tells me that the All Blacks will win, because the French have played so badly” says Jacquie Franc de Ferrière.

“They all know that the team has had its problems, but as they have got to the final, they all still have confidence and to be honest there are some excellent players in the 15 de France” says Justine Gernez from Mazan. “but I personally think that until now they have not played as a solid team.  But the French are always so unpredictable – that is what they are known for, and for giving everyone heart attacks until the final whistle is blown”.

These mixed feelings are well expressed in this news video from of a French mother and son agreeing to disagree on the outcome of the final match!

“Maybe we don’t have talent, but we have heart”, says the French captain Thierry Dusautoir.

So all the best to both teams for a great match of rugby on Sunday evening (NZ time) and Sunday morning (French time). Keep your heart pills close by, and get ready to party!