French need to learn Culture and Passion From Irish

Gerry Thornley’s been warming to his theme of IRFU-bashing lately – he’s been awoken from his autopilot by the new NIE laws and is using his weekly column as a platform from which to berate the [Insert number Here] Old Farts.  Which we approve.  And, of course, he’s only too delighted to see three Irish provinces in the HEC quarter finals.  After all, who isn’t?

But the final paragraph in today’s piece set off the alarm bells:

But, for all its wealth, foreign imports and benefactors, the Top 14 remains, a la the Premier League in England, something of a circus act which works against its national team. Nor do they have the same sense of culture and identity between fans and players who truly represent their regions.
What’s that Gerry?  The French club sides don’t have a sense of culture and identity between fans and players?  Really?  Tell that to the Clermont Auvergne fans whose ground is the most intimidating in Europe, and make their mark on every city to which they travel.  Or the Toulousains who pour into the streets donned in rouge-et-noir whenever they land silverware.  Anyone who was there two years ago for the Leinster-Clermont quarter final will regard it as the greatest atmosphere ever to grace the RDS.

There’s no need to go on, because we all know this.  We’ve all seen the French support, and we all know how much the fans value the Bouclier, and how attached they are to their club teams.  The idea that Perpignan could learn a thing or two from the Irish pishun is ludicrous.  Maybe we could teach them to cook, make wine and dress stylishly while we’re at it? 

We’re entitled to be pleased with the state of Irish rugby, but this sort of smugness has no place.  The Bouclier de Brennus has been contested since 1892, quickly took on the character of village against village, providing an outlet for the denizens of Albi, Dax, Carcassonne and Aix similar to that which soccer provides in the north of England. Domestic Fench rugby has a tribal ferocity to this day.

Perhaps Gerry should watch the video of Pere Harinordoquy taking to the pitch to fight some Bayonnais forwards in the recently contested Basque derby.  Speaking of which, the bi-annual match-up between Bayonne and Biarritz is considered the single most intense rivalry in European rugger. It’s a longstanding one too – while we can’t be entirely sure, we think it might even pre-date the Heineken Cup semi-final in 2006.



  1. The last paragraph surprised me as well but I suspect he would have better to specifically site Stade Francais and/or Toulon rather than generalise. Long may he continue to use his privileged position to rail against the bonkers plans of the IRFU.

  2. Excellent piece. Thornley is for so many reasons an utter joke of a man, but we could do without his parish-pump mentality embarrassing us in our national media. If he wants to be a cultural bog-trotter that's fine, as long as he's only making a fool of himself. If any French supporters read that and took it seriously I'd be very displeased. This is one reason why I don't buy that piss-poor paper anymore.There are certain things that the French do as well as or better than anybody, and people who know a thing or two about rugby appreciate that. Fierce local derbies and colourful terraces are a couple, vocal support and beautiful running football are a couple of others. (We're a tuneless bunch who occasionally dirge out the name of our provinces in comparison, amid calls of 'SIT DOWN!' from the back seats. Clearly if there's learning to be done, it's ourselves who need to be burning the candle at both ends studying our Gallic cousins and how much fun they have at matches.) Monsieur Le Thornley, vous êtes une grande salope. Well done, lads. Best blog on the web, as ever. Much appreciated.

  3. (Ok, and the philosophy, wine, and culinary skills ain't bad either… plus the babes… but that's a given… was focused on the rugby above…)

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