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Toulouse. The rich history of rugby union in France

After “Rugby Forbidden”, the English journalist Mike Rylance publishes the rest of the history of French rugby union entitled “Audace et combat”. The second volume tells the story of the development of this sport in France from the liberation to the present day. It is the result of a patient work of investigation, meetings and research in the archives, in particular those of La Dépêche du Midi. Interview with its author, passionate about XIII and Francophile, who lives in Wakefield, a Treizist stronghold in the north of England and who knows the south-west of France well.

How were you able to find so many documents on the history of the 13th century in France?

It took me five to six years of work to publish a first version in English, then two years before finishing the translation in French. It was not easy to find all these documents. I made numerous interviews and meetings, in particular of two players who took part in the XIII tour of France in Australia in 1951, Elie Brousse unfortunately disappeared since, and Jacques Merquey who is the last survivor of this tour. I really enjoyed meeting all these actors. In total, I met about thirty witnesses. And then, I spent a lot of time in the archives of La Dépêche du Midi and Midi Olympique in Toulouse to find the many articles that I used to write this book.

Why did you write this sequel to “forbidden rugby”?

The first book told of the establishment of the XIII in France in 1934, its rise and then its ban by Vichy. I wanted to know how this game which had been popular before the war, was able to resuscitate after four years of absence and how the XIII of France was able to become unofficial world champion a few years later by beating Australia twice at home . I tell this story of ups and downs and why the sport has experienced a slow decline in France.

What were the highlights of the 13th?

I am thinking of the victory of the XIII of France twice against Australia in 1978. More recently, there is the merger between the XIII Catalan and Saint-Estève which gave birth to the UTC then the Catalan Dragons with success that we know in the Super League. But for the French teams, it remains the victory in the 3rd test in Australia in 1951. Not only was there the victory but there was also the manner with a remarkable style of play that the Australians had never seen before. .

What are the main reasons for the decline of the thirteen in our country?

The main reason is that the game has not succeeded in establishing itself in schools, the state having not given the authorization. You had to depend on clubs to set up rugby schools. And then, the leaders thought for a long time that they could take good players in XV and that in a few days, they could play XIII. It is not that simple. But one of the big problems is that the game is not widespread enough in the territory.

Despite this decline, the book ends on a positive note.

Yes, that fell well because I finished writing it in 2018 when the Catalan Dragons won the FA Cup at Wembley with a team made up partly of French players. It is certainly the most important victory of all the French XIII. I believe that despite all the difficulties, the Dragons and Toulouse Olympique are making enormous efforts to take this sport to the top.

Why this title Audace et combat?

I had a lot of trouble finding it. I was finally inspired by a poem by the American author Walt Witman, on the insurrection of the town of 1871. The two words evoke the difficulties encountered by the 13th century to be able to be reborn and exist since the war.

“Daring and fighting, the rebirth of French rugby union”, 351 pages, € 20. On sale on the Toulouse Olympique website, Privat bookstore in Toulouse, Maison de la Presse, rue Thiers in Saint-Gaudens.

For those who would like to offer or treat themselves to a beautiful book during this holiday season, Stéphanie Ledoux’s latest work, “Trait pour Trait” is ideal. After “Travel portraits” (Elytis 2012) and “Rencontres around the world” (Elytis 2015), this third beautiful book from Toulousaine invites readers to a new encounter with her work as a travel artist-painter-painter.

Because you have to see her, Stéphanie Ledoux, sitting cross-legged in village squares, in Kenya, Ethiopia, Thailand, India, Biramnie… munching strangers, surrounded by a crowd of people, who never quit his eye pencil. That’s how the Toulousaine is happy: when traveling, a sketchbook in hand. “I combined my two passions to make it my job. It’s very fascinating. My whole life revolves around traveling and painting. That’s what I wanted,” announces the artist.

And it is a little of this happiness that we find in his last album “Trait pour trait”, where the beauties of the world parade.

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