French Rugby Football: A Cultural History

By Philip Dine | Go to book overview

5
Maréchal nous voilà! – The Wartime
Betrayal of le rugby à treize

Between 1931 and 1939, French rugby's years in the wilderness, the only international matches played by the national side had been against the increasingly unattractive triumvirate of Germany, Italy, and Romania. These matches were played under the auspices of a new organization, the Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA), a title that clearly reflected its origins in the internal and external splits triggered by the ‘shamateurism’ that had characterized the French game in the 1920s. Established late in 1933, this alternative governing body for the increasingly disunited rugby world was predictably dominated by France, its only major rugby-playing nation. However, the list of member countries is most striking for other reasons:

France became the most important member of the new organisation (the others, apart from Germany, being Belgium, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Catalonia). […] … the moves which led to its establishment show the privileged relationship between rugby union's masters and a certain type of political régime. Of the founder members of FIRA, not only Germany and Italy were in thrall to fascism but similar political tendencies were or would be evident in most of the other countries too. 1

Mike Rylance is almost certainly overstating his case here, particularly as regards the inclusion of Belgium, Holland, Spain, and, perhaps especially, Catalonia on this list of fascist or quasi-fascist regimes. These countries, and especially the Republican movements in Spain and Catalonia, might more properly be numbered among the principal opponents, and subsequent victims, of fascism rather than among its promoters. Moreover, it is quite possible that the main reason for the adherence of some of these countries' rugby establishments to FIRA was rather the absence of any viable alternative, and the relative exclusivity and insularity of the anglophone unions. Yet in the cases of Germany, Italy, and Romania, where rugby union was

-95-

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French Rugby Football: A Cultural History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction: 'Only Fabulous French Can Do This' 1
  • Notes 13
  • Part I - The Rise of Le Rugby-Panache, 1880–1914 18
  • 1 - Pioneers and Patriots in Paris 19
  • Notes *
  • 2 - The Expansion into the Provinces 41
  • Notes *
  • Part II - Rugby Goes to War, 1914–1945 59
  • 3 - Identity and Brutality in the South-West 61
  • Notes *
  • 4 - French Rugby in the Wilderness 79
  • Notes *
  • 5 - Maréchal Nous Voilà! – the Wartime Betrayal of Le Rugby à Treize 95
  • Notes *
  • Part III - Uncorking Le Rugby-Champagne, 1945–1968 114
  • 6 - The Second Miracle of Lourdes 115
  • Notes 127
  • 7 - ‘Mission Accomplished!’ – 1968 and All That 129
  • Notes *
  • Part IV - Towards a Global Game, 1968–2000 150
  • 8 - The Struggle for the Soul of Le Rugby Français 151
  • Notes *
  • 9 - Out of Africa: Professionalism's Winds of Change 171
  • Notes *
  • Conclusion: A La Recherche Du Rugby Perdu 193
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography 199
  • Appendix 1 - Location of Leading French Rugby Clubs, 2000–2001 211
  • Appendix 2 - French Club Championship Winners, 1892–2000 213
  • Appendix 3 - French Achievements in International Competitions 217
  • Index 219
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