Today marks two years to the day from the start of the Rugby World Cup 2023 tournament which will take place in France in different cities, notably la ville rose, our pink city – Toulouse 🏉
In Toulouse, the Stade Toulousain are both European champions 2021 and the winners of the Bouclier de Brennus, the French championship 2021.
Rugby may have originated at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England but nowhere is Rugby more important than in the Southwest of France, especially in Toulouse. Rugby derived from football; allegedly in 1823 when during a game William Webb Ellis decided to pick up a ball and go with it. Whether or not this is a tale or a historic event, the Rugby World Cup Trophy is now named after William Webb Ellis.
Rugby was introduced to the Le Havre region of France by British merchants and students in the 1870s and then spread to schools and colleges.
In 1900, rugby was played at the Olympics in Paris and France won the gold medal, the first ever rugby event at the Olympics. Wahoo! 🇫🇷
France has participated in every WCR tournament since its inception in 1987, and has been runner-up three times. France hosted the event in 2007 and will host it again two years from now. Allez le XV de France!
Southwest France has a special relationship with rugby. In this proud, tough region, it represents more than just a sport, it’s nearly like a religion. Here, rugby transcends class, and is not the ‘middle class’ sport it is in the UK.
There has always been something of a north south divide; the industrialised north, and a more rural south and south-west. The teams in the top two divisions of French rugby are mostly from the south, and many of them in the southwest. The national team plays home games in Paris, but the sport’s heartland is unquestionably the south.
Since the first country-wide championship in 1892, the overwhelming majority of the great title-winning clubs come from the south. Bordeaux, Toulouse, Agen, Lourdes, Biarritz, Perpignan, Bayonne, Béziers, Castres and Pau, are all in the south-west. Rugby is engrained deep within the culture of this region. Traditionally linked to celebration, ‘la troisième mi-temps‘ , the third half time is also part of the game. Singing, drinking, and eating are part of the rugby ‘doctrine. In the towns and villages of the southwest, rugby is for bons vivants, people who ‘live well’.
A little history of the game
“Rugby union was the first organised team sport to formally reach France, coming at a time, after the collapse of the Second French Empire in 1870, when the benefits of group exercise were being extolled in a nationwide effort to restore social and military pride after defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.”
Originally the game became popular in Paris. The first official rugby club was created by wealthy British expatriates in 1877. They decided that rugby was a macho pastime which emphasised collaboration and strength and could fit their nation-building needs. It was well suited to a country of proud fighters and the southwest became the chosen land; it was the first provincial region to play the game. The biggest sports committee outside of Paris was set up in Bordeaux in 1888, chiefly promoting rugby and gymnastics. Rugby took hold quickly in the city, aided by the large number of British wine traders living in the area. From Bordeaux the enthusiasm then migrated up the Garonne towards Agen, Toulouse Carcassonne and Perpignan. In south-west France countless local clubs were set up in towns and villages in the early 20th century, with many of the most prized players recruited from jobs reliant on manual labour, establishing the roots of working class rugby.
The Birth Of The Rugby World Cup
In 1987, New Zealand and Australia hosted the first Rugby World Cup (RWC), which the All Blacks won. 1991 saw the UK, Ireland and France co-host the second RWC and Australia took home the cup . South Africa’s Springboks beat England in 2019 and are the current World Cup champions.
Rugby World Cup 2023 will run from 8 September to the 23 October with five games in Toulouse.
As the qualifications play out the matches in Toulouse are as follows:
Japan vs Americas 2 – September 10th (here’s hoping Canada qualifies🇨🇦)
New Zealand vs Africa 1 – September 15th
Europe 1 vs Final qualified winner– September 23
Japan vs Samoa – September 28
Fiji vs qualifying winner October 8
Just for fun….in the spirit of the game 🏉
For those of you already in Toulouse don’t forget to check out quai de la Daurade this weekend.
The Waterugby Sud de France is preparing for a 3rd edition in the heart of Toulouse from 10 to 12 September 2021. The organizer and former member of the XV of France Yann Delaigue and many former internationals will be playing.
Toulouse host city for the RWC 2023
Divided by the Canal du Midi and the Garonne river, known for the unique pink brick architecture, rugby, gastronomy, the aeronautic and aerospace industries and the warm and welcoming, proud and friendly locals, Toulouse is the place you want to be to watch this tournament and help make the city vibrate in 2023.
I hope that you have enjoyed this post about rugby in Southwest France. Follow me to keep up with me on my travels around beautiful Occitanie……………à bientôt Christina.