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Tom Smith, a Scotland International Rugby Union Player who also represented the British and Irish Lions and has been a rugby coach, lives in our region. He gave us this insight into rugby in this area of France.

Whatever your interest in rugby, SW France is good place to find something. Whether you are looking to get involved as a player, a supporter or a parent, most towns and many villages have clubs with both junior and adult sections.

South West France has traditionally been the engine room of French rugby. With so many teams and different levels, it has produced more French international players than any other region of France. However, professional status has reduced the representation of clubs from the region in the professional leagues, as top level rugby has moved to the more densely populated areas, and areas with bigger and better sponsorship opportunities. In the year 2000 the top French League comprised 24 clubs. Of those 24 clubs 17 came from SW France. Now, in the Top 14 (Le Championnat de France de rugby XV), 6 come from SW France, it is a drop but it is still a healthy number.

The Federale Leagues are a good place to start for a more grassroots view of French rugby. Below the two professional leagues (Top 14 and ProD2 which comprise 30 teams) there are three Fedérale Leagues – 1, 2 and 3. Federale 1 consists of 48 teams divided into 4 pools of 12, Federale 2 is 96 teams in 8 pools, and Federale 3 is 168 in 14. The pools are divided regionally wherever possible and the standard of rugby can be pretty good.

Most clubs enjoy the social side of rugby at their home matches and it can be a good way to integrate into your local area.

If you want to venture a little further afield, Bordeaux and Agen are currently playing in the Top 14. Bordeaux puts on a good match day experience and the stadium is close enough to the city centre to enjoy the city and take in game at the same time. Périgueux has recently experienced adversity, but is re-building and hoping to return to the upper echelons.

Tom is currently “Directeur Sportif” at CAPD (Périgueux Rugby). After being relegated three years ago due to financial issues, it won promotion to Federale 2 last season and the re-building continues. One of the top Ecoles de Rugby in France, Périgueux has ambitions to become a force again in French rugby. Watch this space!

Tom Smith on the move

Insights into the Game
What is it that makes the game so thrilling? The irregular shape of the ball for one thing which makes it harder to control when kicking and harder to catch when it bounces along the ground! The grubber kick, where the kicker kicks the ball forward and into the ground makes the ball roll and tumble across the ground with irregular bounces, making it hard for the opposing team to catch.

Tackling can look rough when a defender impacts the ball carrier with arms and shoulders, stopping them in their tracks. A tap tackle is less confrontational where a defending player chases the ball carrier and taps their ankle from behind, effectively tripping them up and making them stumble.

A Garry Owen (up and under or “chandelle”), refers to a very high hick that covers a short distance. The idea is that the attacking team has the opportunity to win the ball in the air or, if a defender gets hold of it, to tackle them as soon as they catch the ball. It is often used to secure a strong position in an opponent’s half.

The “Goose Step” is a clever move, enabling a player to change the pace of his or her run, making the defender think they are going to stop and then jumping up and using the landing foot to accelerate away with the other leg straight and ready to go. This was the signature move of David Campese, the Australian World Cup winning wing.

First published in the November/December 2018 issue of The Local Buzz