INTERVIEW OF FIGARO – The President of the National Rugby League, in charge of Top 14 and Pro D2, looks back on the efforts made by professional clubs that led to the Grand Slam des Bleus.
Le Figaro – The Grand Slam is the victory of all French rugby. What are the implications of his pro part, Top 14 and Pro D2?
Rene Buscatel – These are not direct spin-offs. But it was important for the League and for the clubs to give the French team all the means to achieve good results. The first step has been taken with this Grand Slam tournament. It remains the second, the 2023 World Cup in France. This Grand Slam shines a light on the quality of French rugby, players and clubs. Hopefully, with an indirect benefit: the conquest of a new audience, new partners. This is a very strong focus on our sport in general and, indirectly, professional club rugby.
All blues are progressing in the Top 14, some recently in Pro D2. This demonstrates the level, the value of these two championships.
He demonstrates the level of French professional clubs, the quality of our championships, the rise of Pro D2. But we already knew that, just look at our very good results in the European Cup … This good health of club rugby was reflected in the XV French team. The efforts made by the clubs and the policy of the NRL over the past few months to cooperate more directly and positively with the Federation are bearing fruit. We have placed our best elements at the disposal of XV France in the best conditions, and it shows. Victory is really for the players and, by the way, for the staff.
This success of XV France is also a consequence of the quotas introduced by the League of French Training Players (JIFF)…
Of course, this allowed more and more young people to play, gave them more playing time, so they are more numerous and open up earlier. This is also the effect of duplicates (to smile). Some clubs play more youngsters to make up for the lack of international players. As a result, not only thirty high-class players apply for the French national team, but twice as many! We saw this last summer on tour in Australia where the B-team allegedly caused a lot of trouble for the Wallabies. After that, there are these good effects and less good ones. I mean the salary gouging of French players who are in increasing demand…
“Some clubs are making a fantastic effort for the French national team and that deserves applause. This is the price to be paid. And the clubs accept it without much reluctance, even when this situation puts them in a difficult position … ”
Did the clubs make big sacrifices by releasing 42 players, including 28 who didn’t play in the league at all in two months of competition?
We can complain about duplicates and I complain about it, but some clubs are making a fantastic effort for France, which is to be applauded. I take my hat off to them for accepting this situation in the common interest without taking their private interests to the extreme… But that’s the price you have to pay. And clubs accept him without much reluctance, even when this situation puts them in a difficult position. When a club selects two or three players, we can always find solutions. But when it’s ten or eleven, it’s a big disadvantage. The sporting as well as economic implications of filling stadiums for partners…
What do you say to the fans, in particular the Stade Toulousain fans, who feel that these many and long absences have damaged the integrity of the Top 14?
I will insist on beneficial influence. This allows you to bring out more young players faster. And that the magic of the Top 14 is its final stages. We can afford a certain sporting disparity due to doubles, but in the end, we start the new championship with playoff matches.
“We will play three days in the top 14 before the 2023 World Cup before we stop. Which will be difficult to manage … ”
Is there a miracle solution to reduce the number of duplicates?
First, and this is important to remember, we must not increase the number of international matches. We are already at the maximum, on the boot (3 tests in November, 5 matches of the Tournament, 3 tests in July, NLDR). We are currently negotiating the next agreement with FFR. There will be no turning back on our part, but I hope there will be no escape either. I don’t think so… Then the decision could go through a different format of the championship. But the current attraction of the Top 14 and Pro D2 comes from the move to a single pool. If we want fewer matches, we need fewer clubs. I made a commitment not to reform the formats until after the World Cup. Then the clubs will discuss. Should they be reduced? Rethink the formula? Nothing can be changed? I cannot give you an answer. Consensus will be required in the common interest, not in the interest of each club.
On the other hand, during the 2023 World Cup (from September 8 to October 28), organized in France, there will be no duplicates?
We will play three days before the World Cup before we stop, yes. which will be difficult to manage. The clubs will prepare, play three matches, before a big break of almost two months. But that is the price we must pay when we are lucky enough to host this great event in France, which will shed light on the French team we wish every success, and on French rugby, amateur and professional.
In the short term, during the November 2022 tour and the 2023 tournament, will this 42-player provision be extended?
Now we are discussing a new agreement with the Federation. But the balance has been struck, and there is no reason to go back. On condition, I repeat, not to add new international meetings. As one of my trainers said, and at Stade Toulousain I had a little (Guy Noves, editor’s note), every year we load the boat a little, and after that we find ourselves on the water …