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Behind the World Cup effect, the desire of French rugby to strengthen itself

“Really, we have 10% more licensees than before the Covid period, it’s rather encouraging! » With a smile on his lips, Daniel Pedaillé, president of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques departmental rugby committee, welcomes a palpable dynamic on the edges of the French pitches.

The excitement resulting from the 2023 World Cup and the successful start of the Blues’ journey does not seem unrelated to the increase in the number of licensees observed in many French clubs.

The global as bait

“Elimination matches will undoubtedly accelerate the phenomenon,” estimates Henri Bonino, coach of the Bastia XV women’s team and sports coordinator of the club. If for the Corsican club, the increase in licensees seems to be less visible at the start of the year, it was preponderant a year ago. “Everything was anticipated last year. The practice of rugby continued during the crisis when other indoor sports stopped. Add to this the light around the French team and the good results of French clubs in the European Cup, obviously that plays a role. he analyzes.

As for the French Rugby Federation (FFR), the objectives are clear: to increase the workforce by 20%. “This is a figure that we observed in 2007”explains Florian Grill, its president (France was already the host country of the event with Wales and Scotland, Editor’s note).“We clearly feel that there are arrivals of young girls and boys all over France. The whole point now is to retain them,” he specifies. A primary objective for the FFR: in 2007, the months following the World Cup saw the number of licensees skyrocket (+ 30% nationwide). The following year, half of the new members had finally left.

Facing the new wave

“At the time, we were not ready to receive the new licensees. We refused children because we didn’t have supervisors”, remembers Daniel Pedaillé. This time, the federation assures us, it is prepared. “Recruitment of qualified educators in clubs has increased by 30% in recent months”, explains Florian Grill. The new strong man of French rugby announces in this sense the establishment of a “apprentice training center”, able to help clubs welcome this new influx of practitioners, in partnership with the Ministry of Sports and the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (Cnosf).

Regarding infrastructure, both professional and amateur clubs are still struggling to have sufficient resources to accommodate this new audience. “We have a real problem, we lack land”insists Daniel Pedaillé. “We have constant requests from parents who want to enroll their children in rugby school, but we lack the infrastructure to accommodate them. » To this end, an envelope of 40 to 50 million for amateur and professional rugby, taken from the profits of the World Cup, is planned by the Heritage 2023 project, in connection with the FFR. Henri Bonino, from Bastia XV, regrets it at this stage “a lack of communication to receive aid”. “There are clubs which will be lucky enough to be financially supported but not all”, he analyzes.

Convert essay beyond global

To continue the dynamic beyond the world championship, the FFR also aspires to convince parents, with sub-disciplines of rugby that are still little-known. “With the rise of V rugby, a rugby without shock and without tackling, based on the technique of avoidance and which is played mixed, we have a fantastic alternative to offer”, explains Florian Grill. The manager also wants to give himself a priority objective: to bring rugby back to schools. “The issue is not just sporting.It’s a real societal lever.It is often said that there is an educational crisis in this country. With the values ​​of rugby, we face it”ensures the first sales representative in the discipline.

Since the discipline has often suffered from geographical disparity, the national body wishes to focus on its policy of priority districts. “Out of a total of 1950, 270 clubs carry out “building-level” action in the neighborhoods. We would like to increase to 400 in the short term”promises Florian Grill, with, in the background, a desire to focus more on diversity within the discipline. “We are aiming for 40% girls in these neighborhoods, because they have the capacity to transform the neighborhoods, they take ownership of rugby, they create a form of independence thanks to that and gain the respect of their brothers, of their families “, analyzes the manager. It remains for French families to be tempted by the oval ball.

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JIFF, a reform that is bearing fruit

To attract more young people to rugby, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) is banking on the attractiveness of French training. In 2009, a reform saw the light of day, implying that a growing quota of players having spent at least three seasons in a training center or having had five years of FFR license before turning 21 – JIFF, young people from French training – are entered on the Top 14 match sheets.

Nearly fifteen years later, some leaders see it as a real advantage in promoting discipline. “It was preponderant in what is happening today, analyzes Thomas Lombard, general director of Stade français. We have a coach who benefits from a pool of 70 players selectable for the France team. We have high-performance youth teams (the under-20s are world rugby union champions, Editor’s note), it shows that the system is profitable and it contributes to the attractiveness of the discipline”, he explains. When, a few years ago, French training was questioned, it is now taken as an example.

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