|Rugby union in France|
|Governing body||French Rugby Federation|
|Nickname(s)||Les Bleus, Les Bleuets (m)|
Les Bleues, Les Bleuettes (f)
|First played||1872, Le Havre|
Rugby union in France is a popular team sport. Rugby union was first introduced in the early 1870s by British residents. Elite French clubs participate in the professional domestic club league, the Top 14. Clubs also compete in the European knock-out competition, the European Rugby Champions Cup, which replaced the Heineken Cup from 2014–15.
The national side competes annually in the Six Nations Championship, last winning the competition in 2010. France has participated in every Rugby World Cup since its inception in 1987, and has been a runner-up on three occasions. France also hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
France is the world's most populous country in which rugby union has a large and dedicated following, with over 65 million people. It is more than the populations of other popular rugby nations such as New Zealand, Australia, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales combined.
Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR) is the rugby union governing body in France; they are responsible for the governing of rugby union in France, including the French national team and the organisers of the country's professional competitions, Ligue Nationale de Rugby. It was formed in 1919.
In 1934 the FFR set up the Federation Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA) in an attempt to organize rugby union outside the authority of the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB). It included the national teams of Italy, France, Catalonia, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Germany.
In 1978, the FFR became a member of the IRFB, known from 1998 to 2014 as the International Rugby Board (IRB) and since November 2014 as World Rugby. In 1995, the same year that rugby union became a fully professional sport, FIRA officially recognised the IRFB as the worldwide governing authority for the sport and turned itself into an exclusively European governing body. FIRA adopted its current name of Rugby Europe in 2014.
Rugby football was introduced into France by the British in the early 1870s.
It was in 1872 that a group of British residents formed the Le Havre Athletique,which played a hybrid form of football, a cross between rugby and soccer, called "combination".
The English Taylors RFC, which was formed by British businessmen in Paris in 1877, was followed by Paris Football Club a year later. Racing Club de France was formed in 1882 and their rivals Stade Français in 1883. On 20 March 1892 the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques organised the first ever French rugby union championship, a one off game between Racing and Stade Français. The game was refereed by Pierre de Coubertin and saw Racing win 4–3. French: Fédération Française de Rugby) in 1920.The USFSA remained the main controlling body of French rugby, until the formation of the French Rugby Federation (FFR, from the
In 1900, rugby was played at the Paris Summer Olympics, France entered a team, along with Germany and Great Britain. France won the gold medal, the first ever rugby event at the Olympics. In 1905, for the first time, England and France played each other. In 1910, France coined the term The Five Nations, though they had competed in the home nations tournament four times previously, the tournament would be known as the Five Nations for most of the rest of the 20th century.
Rugby was again played at the 1920 Summer Olympics, though this time, in what is considered one of the most surprising results in rugby history, France fumbled in the gold medal match, being defeated at the hands of the United States, eight points to nil. That same year, the FFR was officially formed. France again participated in rugby at the 1924 Summer Olympics – the last time 15-player rugby would be played as an Olympic sport – where the United States successfully defended their title.
The French rugby union was ousted from the Five Nations championship on charges of player violence and professionalism in 1932. In 1934, Rugby league was introduced to France, half a century after the amateur code had established itself in the country.Also in 1934, FIRA (Federation of Amateur Rugby) was founded by Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Catalonia (Spain), and Sweden. During the second World War, the French Rugby Union actively collaborated with the Vichy Regime to have Rugby League banned. In so doing, the Rugby Union were handed all of the vast assets built up by the French Rugby League since 1934. As of 2014, these assets have not been returned to the Rugby League. In 1939, France was re-invited to participate in the following year's Home Nations tournament, but the onset of the Second World War put all international rugby on hold. The first post-war Five Nations championship took place in 1947, and was the first top-level rugby tournament France had played in since 1931.
In 1978, the FFR joined what is now known as World Rugby. Also in 1959, the national team won the Five Nations for the first time, and subsequently won another consecutive three championships (1960 was shared with England). This success was repeated at the end of the 1960s, when France won both the 1967 and 1968 championships, the 1968 being a Grand Slam. France has nearly always been in the top three teams of the Northern Hemisphere since then.
The first Rugby World Cup was held in 1987. After a low period in the mid-1990s caused by FFR's hesitation to join in the introduction of professional rugby in 1995, the national team has regained its top-tier status.In 1998, France's women's team competed at the first official Women's Rugby World Cup which was held in the Netherlands. In 2003, France was awarded the right to host the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and the country also hosted the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup.
Rugby union is more popular in the South of France, whilst in the North of the country, association football can be viewed as the leading code. There are 1,737 clubs in France and the number of licensed players has significantly increased over the recent years, reaching 390,000 in 2010 (up from 260,000 in 2000).
In 2010, the all-French final of the Heineken Cup between Toulouse and Biarritz in the Stade de France received 3.2 million viewers on France 2.In 2011, the final of the Top 14 gathered 4.4 million viewers on France 2 and Canal+ and the World Cup final between New Zealand and France gathered 15.4 million viewers on TF1, the highest audience on French TV since the start of the year.
The major national club competition in France is the Top 14 (formerly, the Top 16). The Top 14 is played on a home and away basis between the top fourteen club sides in France, followed by three rounds of playoffs involving the top six teams on the league table. The first championship was contested in 1892 and won by the Racing Club, predecessor to today's Racing 92. The current champions are ASM Clermont Auvergne. The second major competition in France is Rugby Pro D2, featuring 16 teams that also play a home-and-away regular season.
A relegation system exists between the two tiers of competition. At the end of the 2017–18 season, Perpiganan were promoted to the Top 14 as promotion play-off champions of Pro D2, while losing finalists Grenoble won a second play-off against the 13th placed Top 14 side Oyonnax to join them. At the bottom of the Top 14 table, Brive and play-off losers Oyonnax were relegated to Pro D2.
Promotion and relegation also exist between Pro D2 and Fédérale 1, the top level of the French amateur rugby system. At the end of the 2018–19 season, Massy and Bourg-en-Bresse were relegated; they were replaced by Rouen who won the 2018–19 Fédérale 1 title and were thereby automatically promoted and Valence Romans, which won the Fédérale 1 promotion playoffs. Fédérale 1, which involves 41 clubs, is the top level of an extensive system of Fédérale leagues that includes nearly 300 clubs in all.
As the map below shows the vast majority of Top 14 and D2 clubs are located in the south of France. For 2019–20, the only exceptions to this are:
Long-term plans call for LNR to establish a third professional league below Pro D2 starting with the 2020–21 season. The build-up to the establishment of this league will see a major LNR initiative to encourage the development of professional clubs in the country's north. To this end, one of the two annual promotion places from Fédérale 1 to Pro D2 will be reserved for a northern club (defined as north of a line running roughly from La Rochelle to Lyon) starting with the 2017–18 season and ending in 2019–20. Each chosen club will receive €800,000 from LNR to assist them in the transition to professional rugby.
The European Rugby Champions Cup is Europe's current top-level club competition, an annual affair involving leading club, regional and provincial teams from the Six Nations: England, France, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Italy. It replaced the previous top-tier competition, the Heineken Cup (known in France as the H Cup due to alcohol advertising laws), effective in 2014–15. The Champions Cup was originally envisioned as a breakaway competition by English and French club teams, but eventually the other four nations joined in the new structure, and the Champions Cup instead became the replacement for the Heineken Cup.
The Heineken Cup was launched during the European summer of 1995 by the (then) Five Nations Committee, following the advent of professional rugby union. The tournament was born with the intention of providing a new level of professional European competition. The French clubs have been quite successful in the tournament under both of its identities. The inaugural competition was won by Toulouse, with Brive victorious the next year. Toulouse became the first team to win the competition more than twice, becoming champions again in 2003, 2005, and 2010. Toulon were champions in the final two editions of the Heineken Cup in 2013 and 2014, and the first edition of the Champions Cup in 2015, making them the first team ever to win three consecutive European championships.
The second-tier European Rugby Challenge Cup also launched in 2014–15 as the replacement for the European Challenge Cup. The original Challenge Cup began the year after the Heineken Cup. Currently, all Top 14 teams that do not qualify for the Champions Cup compete in the Challenge Cup. The first four editions of the original Challenge Cup were all won by French sides—Bourgoin in 1997, Colomiers in 1998, Clermont (then known as Montferrand) in 1999, and Pau in 2000. Since then, French sides have made the finals 11 more times, with Clermont winning in 2007, Biarritz defeating Toulon in an all-French final in 2012, Montpellier winning in 2016, and Stade Français victorious in 2017.
The European Shield, which ran from 2002–03 to 2004–05, was a repechage competition that involved first-round losers in the original Challenge Cup. It was scrapped when the European Challenge Cup was revamped for the 2005–06 season. This trophy was claimed by a French club in each of its three seasons—Castres in 2003, Montpellier in 2004, and Auch in 2005.
France, nicknamed Les Bleus (The Blues), is a top tier nation, as cited by World Rugby. The French style of play, nicknamed the "French flair," is renowned for its paradoxical combination of rugged physicality and inspired grace.
France compete in the Six Nations Championship annually.
Although France have never won the Rugby World Cup, they have appeared in the final match in 1987, 1999 and 2011 Rugby World Cup — losing twice to New Zealand, in 1987 and 2011, and once to Australia, in 1999). France have appeared in the semi-finals at every tournament except for 1991, 2015 and 2019 where they were knocked out in the quarter-final stage.
The National Rugby Centre (in French, Centre National du Rugby or CNR) was opened by then French president Jacques Chirac in November 2002.The facility cost GP£46 million (approx. €68 million, c.2007), and is located in the village of Marcoussis, south of Paris.
The facility covers 20 hectares (49 acres) and includes five rugby pitches (one of them covered, and two floodlit), a gym, medical facilities, a swimming pool, media centre, and library. Living quarters are also included, with 30 rooms which are each named after a championship winning French club. The living quarters also have a dedicated restaurant. France's under-19 team are permanently based at CNR, and provide regular opposition for the French national team during training.
CNR Marcoussis was the venue for the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup pool stages and for the lesser matches in the knockout stage.
Free-to-air channel France 2 broadcasts the Six Nations games, as well as France's home internationals, such as those that are played during the latter stages of the year in November.
Matches from the Top 14 are broadcast by the premium pay television channel Canal+, which also broadcasts many other rugby union competitions, including the Southern Hemisphere's Rugby Championship, between Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Matches from the Pro D2 are broadcast by Sport+, Eurosport and France 3 for local derbies
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rugby union in France .|
The Stade de France is the national stadium of France, located just north of Paris in the commune of Saint-Denis. Its seating capacity of 80,698 makes it the seventh-largest stadium in Europe. The stadium is used by the France national football team and French rugby union team for international competition. It is the largest in Europe for track and field events, seating 78,338 in that configuration. Despite that, the stadium's running track is mostly hidden under the football pitch. Originally built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the stadium's name was recommended by Michel Platini, head of the organising committee. On 12 July 1998, France defeated Brazil 3–0 in the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final contested at the stadium. It will host the opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics events at the 2024 Summer Olympics. It will also host matches for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The Top 14 is a professional rugby union club competition that is played in France. Created in 1892, the Top 14 is at the top of the national league system operated by the French National Rugby League, also known by its French initialism of LNR. There is promotion and relegation between the Top 14 and the next level down, the Rugby Pro D2. The fourteen best rugby teams in France participate in the competition, hence the name Top 14. The competition was previously known as the Top 16.
Stade Français Paris Rugby is a French professional rugby union club based in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. The club plays in the Top 14 domestic league in France and is one of the most successful French clubs of the modern era. The original Stade Français was founded in 1883. In its current form, the club was founded in 1995 with the merger of the rugby sections of the Stade Français and Club Athlétique des Sports Généraux (CASG).
Union sportive Colomiers Rugby or US Colomiers is a French rugby union club currently competing in Pro D2, the second level of the French rugby pyramid. They had been relegated from Pro D2 after finishing last in the 2006-07 season, but earned promotion from Fédérale 1 at the first opportunity in 2007-08, and survived a relegation scare in 2008–09, finishing 14th, in the last safe position. The club was relegated from Pro D2 in the 2010–11 season. The club, based in Colomiers in the Haute-Garonne département of Occitania, was founded in 1915 and plays at the Stade Michel Bendichou. The players wear blue and white. Colomiers have been runners-up in the French championship and Heineken Cup, as well as winners of the European Challenge Cup.
Pieter de Villiers is a South African-born French rugby union player and coach. As a player he represented France at international level and played in two Rugby World Cups, and ended his club career with Stade Français in the Top 14 competition in France. A prop, he was renowned for his scrummaging ability.
Sylvain Marconnet is a French rugby union footballer who played for Biarritz Olympique having signed from Stade Français in the Top 14 club competition in France. His usual position is prop. Marconnet has played for France, including representing them at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
Rémy Martin is a French rugby union footballer. He has also played for France. His usual position is at flanker.
Mathieu Blin is a French rugby union footballer playing Paris club, Stade Français in the elite Top 14 competition. His usual position is at hooker.
David Auradou is a French rugby union footballer playing for Paris club Stade Français in the élite Top 14 competition. His usual position is at lock (missionary). He is the current captain of Stade Français Paris CASG.
Rugby Pro D2, also known as Pro D2 is the second tier of rugby union club competition division in France. It is operated by Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) which also runs the division directly above, the first division Top 14. Rugby Pro D2 was introduced in 2000. It is the world's best supported second tier rugby union league.
The 2006–07 Top 14 competition was the 108th French domestic rugby union club competition operated by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) and the 2nd using the name Top 14. Biarritz were out to defend their crown, after their defeat of Toulouse in the 2005-06 Top 14 final. New teams to the league included Albi and Montauban who were promoted from 2004–05 Pro D2, replacing relegated sides Toulon and Pau. During the season attendance records in the league were once again broken with 79,741 attending the Round 19 clash between Stade Français and Toulouse at the Stade de France, and over 2 million supporters attended games across the campaign.
Brian Liebenberg is a South Africa-born French former rugby union footballer. His usual position is at centre, where he plays for Top 14 club, Stade Français. He was a part of Stade Français' Top 16 victory of 2004, as well as the runner-up of the 2004-05 Top 16 season and the 2004-05 Heineken Cup. He was also a part of France's 2004 Six Nations Championship victory, as well as playing for them during the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
The 2007-08 Top 14 Competition was a French domestic rugby union club competition, operated by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR). Because France hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup, the competition did not begin at its normal time of August, but instead started on the last weekend in October 2007, one week after the Rugby World Cup final. The league compensated for the late start by playing on several weekends that it normally skips, namely the weekends of the 2008 Six Nations Championship and the semifinals and final of the 2007-08 Heineken Cup. The season ended on June 28, 2008, with Toulouse defeating regular-season league leader Clermont 26–20 in the final and thereby lifting the Bouclier de Brennus.
The major national club competition in France is the Top 14. The Top 14 is played on a home and away basis between the top fourteen club sides in France. The second major competition in France is the Rugby Pro D2 competition. A relegation system exists between the two tiers of competition. Both competitions are operated by Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR).
Maxime Médard is a French rugby union player who plays his club rugby for French club Stade Toulousain in Top 14 and France internationally. He can play as both a full-back and on the wing and is described by assistant national team coach Émile Ntamack as an "incredible talent" that, during the 2010–11 season, was finally "realizing his potential". Medard is a two-time winner of the Heineken Cup and, in 2008, won the Top 14 for the first time. Also referred to as 'The French Wolverine.'
The 2009–10 Top 14 competition was a French domestic rugby union club competition operated by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR). It began on August 14, 2009 with a match between Toulon and Stade Français at Stade Mayol in Toulon, and continued through to the final at the Stade de France on May 29, 2010.
The 2010–11 Top 14 competition was a French domestic rugby union club competition operated by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR). Home-and-away play began on August 13, 2010 and continued through April 2011. The regular season was followed by a three-round playoff starting in May that involved the top six teams, culminating in the final on June 4 at Stade de France. Toulouse won the Bouclier de Brennus for the 18th time, defeating Montpellier 15–10.
The 2011–12 Top 14 competition was a French domestic rugby union club competition operated by the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR). Home-and-away play began on August 26, 2011. Two new teams from the 2010–11 Rugby Pro D2 season were promoted to Top 14 this year, Lyon and Bordeaux Bègles in place of the two relegated teams, La Rochelle and Bourgoin.
The European Rugby Champions Cup is an annual rugby union tournament organised by European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR). It is the top-tier competition for clubs whose countries' national teams compete in the Six Nations Championship. Clubs qualify for the Heineken Champions Cup via their final positions in their respective national/regional leagues or via winning the second-tier Challenge Cup; those that do not qualify are instead eligible to compete in the second-tier Challenge Cup.
Rugby Europe is the administrative body for rugby union in Europe. It was formed in 1999 to promote, develop, organise and administer the game of rugby in Europe under the authority of World Rugby. However, it is not responsible for the organisation of the Six Nations Championship or the competitions run by European Professional Club Rugby.