Before becoming a best-selling journalist, author and presenter, Peter Fitzsimons am was a Wallabies rugby player who represented Australia in the late 1980s. We ask about his memories living in France, and his thoughts on the France Rugby World Cup.
Watching a rugby match in the geographical heart of Europe is incredible.
I toured the regions in 2007, during the quarter-finals in Marseille. There were tens of thousands of people in the streets, and maybe a thousand police – but none were needed. Whether their teams win or lose, these fans don’t want to hit each other!
France is where you’re most likely to see a French team playing out of their tree.
In 2007 everyone knew the All Blacks were set to win, but no one told that to the French team. French men on French soil are hard to beat, and that’s exactly what drove their win that day.
I remember when the All Blacks went to a 24-7 lead with 7 minutes to go.
The French blew the All Blacks out of the park. At any time, a match can explode into action.
French Rugby Team Copyright - Isabelle Picarel - FFR
The French approach to rugby is about avoir l’impression.
It’s about the spiritual connection between players. The Anglo approach is more about mechanics. When the French play, they draw strength from the crowd, from the village church bells – it’s called l’esprit de clocher. That’s why they will play above themselves – to exhaustion and beyond.
I visit France every couple of years.
In Paris, Le Bristol is a wonderful place to stay. I love to eat at Le Grand Colbert in the 2nd arrondissement. Then there’s Les Deux Magots, a café brasserie in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. I love to wander Père Lachaise Cemetery, where many of the good and the great are buried, such as Oscar Wilde. I remember visiting Jim Morrison’s grave, standing next to a German lady who cut off the last tuft of her hair and placed it on his grave. It meant so much to her.
Le Bristol Paris Colonnade 1 1395 Copyright Le Bristol
I love to visit charming Donzenac, where I played rugby for four glorious years.
I loved the people there. The village matriarch, Madame Simone Salesse (now passed), ran the local restaurant, Le Périgord, for many decades. I visit Madame’s grave every time I go to France.