It seems only fitting that my third contribution to All About France blog link up deserves a post dedicated to rugby with the current Rugby World Cup 2015 happening right now until 31 October 2015.
If you love rugby (like me!) then read on. If you’re bored stiff of anything rugby-related, don’t read any further because this blog post may just convert you into one of those crazed fans that sits in the half-light of the living room at 2 a.m watching your team playing on the other side of the world. Luckily for me, the Rugby World Cup is being hosted by England so the matches are played at a bearable hour for Northern Hemisphere spectators; unlucky for many of my friends and family they’ll be watching the red-eye matches screened in the Southern Hemisphere.
An expat’s rugby dilemma in France
Born and bred in New Zealand, my rugby loyalties lie – of course – with the All Blacks. The current world champions, I watched the All Blacks compete in a cat-and-mouse 2011 World Cup final in a local French bar crowded with every Kiwi fan within a 50 kilometre radius. We beat France and it was a satisfying win.
My brother and father played rugby in their youth, my nephews play rugby and the odds are my own sons may play rugby (though my eldest son at 4-years old has declared that being a ninja is more fun).
My dilemma lies with juggling loyalty for my home country (New Zealand) but feeling passionate enough to support France when they play other countries. France is my home (my eldest son has French-branded sports team clothing), but my heart lies with New Zealand.
So, where do you watch rugby on the French Riviera if you don’t have satellite TV? You can head to one of these bars I recommend – Where to watch Rugby World Cup games on the French Riviera. It’s not an exhaustive list but a round-up of a few bars I know that screen live matches for rugby (and also the English Premier League football if that interests you).
Kiwi players in France
New Zealand rugby has a strong foothold in France. Many other French rugby fans speak to me enthusiastically about the All Blacks and they have an appreciation for the best Kiwi players – though it is always their dream for France to beat the All Blacks in every match!
Many ex-All Blacks finish their careers in New Zealand teams and are snapped up by teams based in Japan, the UK and Europe and it can be lucrative for them to base themselves overseas as professional rugby players in New Zealand are not paid well in comparison to the immense salaries received in football (soccer).
To put it in context, Super Rugby player salaries are capped at $190,000 (though top All Blacks earn around $1 million) but Dan Carter, who at 33 is nearing the twilight of his career, will earn around $2 million in one season in France.
Wealthy club owners, sponsors and a new broadcasting deal have put the French clubs in a powerful position and some Kiwi players headed for France aside from Dan Carter, include Colin Slade and Tom Taylor.
Rugby and the French Riviera
Southern France is a hotbed of rugby action, particularly in Perpignan, Toulouse and Toulon. Closer to home, the Nice Côte d’Azur Université-Racing team went into liquidation a few years ago leaving the region’s main rugby team to be reborn as Stade Niçois, nicknamed The Eagles. Top players who have been based at Nice previously include the Armitage brothers now playing in the UK, and Kiwis Grant Hill and Dean Moxham.
If you have moved to the region, you can join a club at Nice, Monaco, Antibes, Grasse etc. More club info is found at http://www.paca-loisirs.com/activites-paca-rugby.html
Part and parcel of being a professional sportsperson are the accompanying endorsements and sponsorship deals. You’ll notice rugby players endorsing clothing, shoes, insurance, cologne – even deodorant is not left untouched.
One of my recent favourites is an in-flight safety video by Air New Zealand featuring some of the All Blacks and other rugby greats such as David Campese (ex-Wallaby) and Martin Johnson (ex-England captain) in a Men-in-Black inspired performance. Air New Zealand loves to make quirky in-flight videos; previous releases have seen have seen Bear Grylls and the Lord of the Rings actors coax passengers into watching these vital, but usually mundane, videos and I think it makes them memorable. If you missed the All Blacks collaboration, here it is:
Did you know?
The alleged inventor of the game – William Webb Ellis – is buried in Menton where he died in 1872.