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Les Sports:  Rugby

NATIONAL - February 22, 2003 update
A Week Too Late, France Beats Scotland
France 25, Scotland 17

A week too late, France got an excellent performance from its kicker. Francois Gelez converted seven-of-eight penalty kicks and try conversions, leading France to a 38-3 thumping of Scotland in the Six Nations Rugby Tournament. Gelez wasn’t on the team a week ago in London when France’s kicker, Gerard Merceron, disgraced himself by missing five of six kicks for points. France scored three tries to England’s one, but lost all chance early in the match when Merceron flubbed several easy kicks. England’s victory leaves the Brits in the driver’s seat to win Europe’s most prestigious rugby tournament. Ireland has whaled the tar out of two of the tournament’s weakest teams, Scotland and Italy. If the Irish can beat France in Dublin in March, it will set up a showdown match with England later this spring.
     Ireland and England are undefeated with two wins each, Wales and Scotland bring up the rear of the standings with two losses each, and France and Italy are in the middle, each with a win and a loss.


NATIONAL - February 15, 2003 update
French Kicker Leads England to Victory
England 25, France 17
England beat France in London. Neither team played particularly well, although the game was pretty defensive in nature. France scored three tries and England only one, but that doesn't imply that France was in any way offensively dominant. The real story was that Wilkinson, the English kicker, made his one try conversion and made six of six penalty kicks. Merceron, the French kicker, made one of three try conversions and one of four penalty kicks. The New Zealand referee seemed slightly psychotic, but he was evenhandedly psychotic, in a strange sort of way (let the match go thirteen minutes of added injury time at the end with the English crowd screaming wildly and while France scored two unconverted tries...called three petulant penalties on France for letting the scrum fall down slightly, which turned into nine English penalty kick points...)
     England probably played a little bit better. The Aussies and Kiwis won't be quaking in their World Cup boots after watching this match.

Six Nations Rugby 2003
Allez les Bleus!

Sat, Feb 15 at England
Sun, Feb 23 Scotland
Sat, Mar 8 at Ireland
Sun, Mar 23 Italy
Sat, Mar 29 Wales

On Saturday afternoon February 15,
France plays England at Twickenham in the
first match of this year's Six Nations Rugby Tournament.
It's a shame: The tournament is effectively over after this game, because whoever wins it will win the tourney.
So the bookies say. We say:  Allez France!

LOCAL - February 13, 2003 update
All’s fair that ends well
Tout va bien qui finit bien
Uzès 19, La Teis 17
Down in Federal 3, the fifth level out of eleven French rugby levels, our hometown team, Uzès, is in truly terrible shape this year. The Dukes lost many of their best players for one reason or another and they’ve won only two of 14 games so far. They’re thus in last place, heading for demotion to a lower league. On Sunday February 9th we saw them win their second game, at home against a very weak opponent. Here's how real French home cooking works:  After dominating the whole game (but having missed a bunch of easy penalty kicks), Uzès had a slim lead and was threatening with about five minutes to go. But a lazy lateral pass was intercepted by an opponent who streaked 100 meters for a try, putting the visitors in the lead by one point. Again there are about five minutes to go…there is no scoreboard clock at the Uzès field, the ref keeps the time…FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER (!) Uzès scored on a dropkick and the ref signaled the kick as good and the game as over at the same time. Oh the fury of the visitors! We were rolling around laughing, as were most of the Uzès supporters. Apparently the league's plan is to not allow Uzès to be demoted no matter how bad they are…all’s fair in rugby, love and war.


NATIONAL - April 15, 2002 update

Before a roaring crowd of 80,000 at the Stade Français in the Paris suburb of St-Denis, the French National Rugby team demolished Ireland 44-5, thus sweeping all five of its games in the Six Nations tournament and earning the coveted "Grand Slam". A confident Irish team left most of its game behind in newspaper quotes and ended up with a thrashing on the field. France was totally dominant from start to finish.
     We won't know who is really the best team in the world until a year and a half from now, when the 2003 World Cup is decided in Australia. But, for the time being, France can make a strong case for itself. In the autumn of 2001 France traveled to the southern hemisphere and swept its three game series against South Africa, Fiji, and Australia, the defending World Cup champ. This winter and spring France swept the Six Nations tournament against England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy, making it eight wins in a row against most of the world's best. So who is entitled to call itself the world's best, if not France? Happily, the coach and team have refrained from so stating, leaving it to sportswriting hacks like us…
     It's a long way from here to the end of the World Cup tournament. Yet France seems to have put together a nice combination of size, speed, experience and youth, which augurs well for its future prospects. Allez les bleus! Bien fait en 2002!

Final standings of the
2002 Six Nations Tournament
April 2002

                                          W  -   L

          France                   5  - 

          England                4  -  1

          Ireland                  3  -  2

          Scotland              2  -  3

          Wales                    2  -  3

          Italy                       0  -  6


NATIONAL - March 30, 2002 update
France Goes for a "Grand Chelem"
France 22, Scotland 10
You'd have to better at the French language than we are to figure out how "Grand Slam" gets translated into "Grand Chelem", but, linguistics aside, France now has the opportunity to finish the Six Nations Tournament undefeated. Were they to do so, the French would achieve something very precious (pick your version of  "Grand…"): a sweep of all games against England, Scotland, Italy, Wales, and … Ireland. Oh, yes, the unfinished business with Ireland. That will take place on the afternoon of Saturday, April 6, at the Stade de France outside Paris.
     On Saturday, March 23rd, Scotland, playing at home, took a brief early lead and then succumbed to the superior French team. The French didn't play particularly well, but they played well enough to win. This seems to be a successful formula for them: they rarely look great, they just win.
     Our local kid, Thibault Privat, played as a French substitute for the last fifteen minutes or so of the match. We claim him as "local" because he played his high school rugby here in Uzès and a couple of kids we know played on the same team with him. Privat is a twenty-one year old newcomer to the French team and he's a big, blonde giant: 6'7'' and 255 pounds. He's one of about eight youngsters who France's entraîneur, Bernard Laporte, has blended in with the veterans who lost in the final match of the last World Cup. Laporte, a curiously scholarly-looking man for a rugby coach, has done a marvelous job over the last several years. During a match he's alternately stoic and agitated. With the press he's given to statements stereotypically associated with members of the academie française. In the locker room subsequent to the Scotland match, he commented on France's (sometimes dubious) passing ability: “Rugby is essentially a game of combat. After the combat comes the passing. But first one has combat." Neatly put, neatly French.
     We'll find out how this all ends up on April 6. Meanwhile, we're saying no more. Don't want to jinx our boys.


LOCAL - March 30, 2002 update
Les ducaux  beat their neighbors in a “derby”
Uzès 14, Alès 11
On a mistral-swept Sunday afternoon at Uzès' Stade de Refuge, our local boys, down in Federal Division 3, barely got the job done, but they got the job done. In front of the largest crowd in many, many years, Uzès beat neighboring Alès, 14-11. The result was to be expected, since Uzès is used to this division level while Alès, despite being a much larger town, has just moved up to Federal 3 this year and, at season's end, is likely to be demoted right back down to where they came from, the Division of Honor. (Isn't it curious that, in France, the Leagues are described in such a way that, the lower you go, the better it sounds…??)
     Uzès, we dearly love you. But it's time for a new regime, some new players, or…something! This team is going nowhere fast. Mired in the middle of their division, they have gotten progressively worse since we first saw them, back in the Fall of 2000. We have it reliably from one of their former players that, at the big practice on Wednesday before the game, only ten players showed up. If you know that there are fifteen players on each side, that's all you need to know. Yes, they have to play against teams from much larger cities. Marseilles, Nice, Bastia, Ajaccio, Alès, and Orange. But surely they can do better than this. Finishing in the middle of the pack year after year carries with it the threat of a sudden failure and instant demotion to a lower league. (Following Alès down?) Here's hoping they'll make liars of us yet. But, three games left to play, it looks as though they're no playoff threat at all. Of course, the same writer said the same thing about this year's edition of the New England Patriots who, last we heard, were Super Bowl champions…



NATIONAL - March 15, 2002 update
French rugby team in the driver's seat!
Les bleus dans la chaise de conducteur!

At the halfway point of the annual Six Nations Rugby Tournament, France is the surprise leader. Les bleus were anything but impressive last month although they beat Italy and Wales in their opening matches. Then came the stunner: A resounding victory over heavily favored England at the Stade Française in Paris. It wasn't even close. France jumped out to a 17-0 lead and was never threatened. Throughout the game the French defense swarmed all over the confused looking, then, finally, disheartened English. The French team took a victory lap around their home stadium while the adoring crowd of nearly 80,000 screamed in triumph. The English slunk home, bewildered. A betting person would have a field day making odds on who was more chagrined afterwards:  English bookmakers who had installed their guys as 20-point favorites, or English sportswriters, who, after England's unexpectedly easy trouncing of a very good Irish national side, had anointed their team as "easily the best in the world."  Which makes the French team...??
     Next up for France: Scotland on their home turf at Murrayfield, weekend of March 23, 2002. Beware, les bleus, the Scots seem to upset someone every year. Two years ago it was the English, last year it was the Irish, and, this year? One wishes certain French sportswriters and certain French rugby fans would stop salivating over the French chances for a Grande Chalem (Grand Slam, a sweep of all the other five nations) this year. At the World Cup in Australia, summer of 2003, we'll find out which country is really best. There might even be a little team there from the host country who, last I saw, were the defending World Champions.

The French XV, les bleus, take the driver's seat.

The Six Nations Tournament
Le Tournoi des VI Nations
as of March 10, 2001

France  la France     3-0
England  l'Angleterre    2-1
Italy  l'Italie    0-3
Ireland  l'Irelande     2-1
Scotland  l'Ecosse    0-3
Wales  les Pays de Galle    1-2



LOCAL - March 2002 update
Uzès rugby team:  only so-so...
L' equipe de rugby uzétienne:  comme çi, comme ça

With four games left to play in the regular season, Uzès' edition 2002 is very much a mirror image of last year's team.  They rank sixth among the twelve teams in Poule 8 of their division, "Fédérale 3."  This division is the fifth level among France's eleven divisions. (The top two divisions, thoroughly professional, are the hosts for the players on France's national team. Le bon dieu alone knows what rugby looks like in Série 4, the eleventh rung of the ladder.)
     Uzès got off to a fast start, but has faltered of late.  Some strange goings-on have characterized their coaching situation. "Les Ducaux" commenced the year with co-coaches.  Halfway through the season one resigned. Two weeks ago the other resigned, and now the team is coached by one of its former players, Sam Besson, who is also known to suit up occasionally.  This past Sunday, on their home field, Le Stade du Réfuge, Uzès' Rouge et Jaune thumped Le Mourillon, a team from the Var, 23-3. The game started with extremely rude deportment displayed by the visitors, and before it was all over Monsieur l'Arbitre had kicked out no less than three of Les Maurrionais. In Monday's regional newspaper, the headline read something like "Uzès keep their heads cool, lets the other team self-destruct."
     It's probably even money that Uzès will finish in the top five or six in their Pool, thus entering the playoffs and a chance to move up to Fédéral 2 next year. It's a much better bet that they won't move up, simply because they would start the playoffs on the road and Uzès never wins on the road. They're great at home, but… And for a little town like Uzès (8,300) they play against fearsome competition:  Nice, Marseilles, Bastia, Alès, Ajaccio…huge towns by comparison.


A bit of history on this team:

   The Uzès team was started in 1976.  They started, and languished, where all beginners begin: Série 4. 
   By dint of their good play they started moving up in 1981, when they moved to Série 3. Then they made a really astonishing series of moves forward, winning everything in sight. They moved from Série 4 to Série 3, to Série 2, to Série 1, to Promotion d'Honneur, to Honneur, to Fédéral 3, and, in 1998, to Fédéral 2, the fourth rung of the eleven-rung French rugby ladder.
   Unfortunately, Fédéral 2 was a bit rich for a small town team (e.g., they were in with our neighbors, Nîmes, a town of 400,000) and Uzès was "relegated", or dropped down, to Fédéral 3 where they have remained, still over-achieving in an important sense.
   Still, one wishes they had a little more scoring power…




LOCAL - March 2001 update
Uzès on a Roll: The Dukes Headed for Playoffs
Our local rugby team, which plays far down the ladder from the elite French national team, has been on fire in the National 3 division. On three successive weekends les ducales have crushed the first and third place teams in their twelve-team “pool” here at the Stade au Refuge, while picking up an easy win on the road against last place Bièvre.
     Uzès now stands tied for fourth position in the pool, roaring back from their underachieving 10th spot only eight weeks ago. The team seems to be playing to its potential at present. There are three games left before the playoffs, and at this stage it would seem that the Dukes will make the cut.
     On Sunday March 11, here in the First Duchy of France, Uzès dominated the league leaders, Monteux, 16-10 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score. The bad news was that Bricci, Uzès’ best player, a former Romanian international player, injured himself while scoring a formidable try early in the match. He hasn’t played since. Fingers are crossed around the uzétienne clubhouse.
     The next Sunday Uzès traveled to last-place Bièvre, somewhere up in the Alps. Uzès thrashed their hosts as expected and came home to face another challenge.
     Last Sunday, March 25, Uzès welcomed third-place Valréas. Playing the best half of their season, the locals stomped all over the highly placed opponents. Uzès led 23-0 at halftime, substituted liberally in the second half and coasted to an easy 31-16 win. A highlight of the game was a breathtaking try scored from about thirty-five meters out by the uzétien halfback Benouali. (Players in France don’t seem to have first names.) This guy is one of those really skinny, whippet-looking guys whom you’re always expecting to break a long run. Well. Finally. He took a pass in the middle of the field, broke a tackle and just sprinted away from everyone for the score. Really marvelous stuff.
     Uzès’ remaining three games are on the road against sixth-place Gap, just one point behind Uzès in the standings; at home against eighth-place Seyssins, and, finally, a big one on the road at  Saint-Saturnin, with whom they’re currently tied for fourth position.
     Since Uzès will have to pay the price for its early-season lethargy by playing any early playoff games on the road, it would appear that the return of the injured Bricci is key to our local hopes.




NATIONAL - March 2001 update
Six Nations Tournament:
France Blows Lead, Upset by Wales
Memo to the candyass, multizillionaire athletes of America who constantly whine about “not being loved enough”:  Try playing in France for a while…
     At home in Paris, the French national rugby team blew a late game lead over Wales and lost the match 43-35. The result effectively ended any hope the French had for emerging victorious in the Six Nations Tourney. The immediate consequences of the loss included:

* a headline in a Paris paper screaming, “DISGRACE!”
* the president of the French rugby association going on television to declare that the French team “has no heart.”
* the team’s coach firing seven players

     Since both Ireland and England are undefeated in the tournament, France cannot win. France lost to Ireland earlier, and plays England in London next. Maybe. The tournament has already had several games cancelled due to the filthy conditions rampant in England, a small yet horribly infected island. The Irish wisely refused to let the microbe-ridden English team and fans travel to the emerald isle, fearing plague-like contamination of the public health. The French have taken the same position:  no mobs of hoof-and-mouth-carrying Anglais permitted. Therefore the whole tournament is in jeopardy.
     Six Nations tourney or no, the French have a problem with their rugby team, the reigning “demi-champions” of the world. The fact that the team’s officials have begun muttering that their “real goal” is the World Cup tells all. The World Cup will be held again in 2003…


LOCAL - February 2001 update
Uzès clawing toward playoffs
Le ducaux gagnent encore chez lui

February 2001....Our local rugby team barely emerged the winner from a close game at home this weekend. It was another “must win” situation, with an 18-11 victory over the team ranked just ahead of them in the standings, Grésvaudan, a town up in the southern Alps. “Must win” and “team just ahead of them” have become regular descriptives for Uzès games, and here’s why: there are 12 teams in the league and the point differential between third place (Gap, with 33 points) and tenth place (Privas, with 29 points) is only four points. A team winning a match receives three points (one point to each team for a tie, zero to a loser) so eight teams are very tightly bunched. The season is two-thirds over and the top eight make the national playoffs. Uzès is tied for eighth with 30 points.Rugby.2jpg.jpg (48516 bytes)
     This particular game featured a return by the Uzètiens to their wildly colorful “Tide-box” uniforms after they unaccountably appeared in black jerseys last time. What hasn’t changed is Uzès’ consistently solid defense and their trouble scoring points. The Uzès player who played on the Romanian national team, Bricci, saved Uzès again and again in this match. The visitors would mount an attack down towards the Uzès goal line and Bricci would end up with the ball and kick it out of bounds (to touch) beyond mid-field, setting the opponents back.
     The French television commentators covering the national team have complained that all the referees seem to be Anglophones and “why can’t there be French-speaking referees for the French team?” (The French captain has a teammate translator for discussions with the referee, a frequent occurrence in rugby.)  Well, all the referees at Uzès’ level are French. That didn’t help much on Sunday afternoon as Monsieur Parrot from the Languedoc refereeing association had the players on both sides slapping their heads in disbelief at his fatuous decisions. But, game over, Uzès emerged with a very close win and is still battling for the playoffs. There seems to be a vague air of desperation hovering over the Dukes. One hopes it’s just the situation, with every game counting for so much. Nonetheless, Sunday’s atmosphere was a bit grim and this spectator had less enjoyment than at any previous match. Even the win didn’t seem to cheer the locals very much.  Serious business, this amateur French rugby…


NATIONAL - February 2001 update
France sunk in Ireland
Sous la marée verte

February 2001...The slightly favored French national rugby team lost to Ireland in Dublin this past weekend (Feb 17) by the score of 22-15. The loss muddies France’s hopes for the championship of the Six Nations Tournament since both England and Ireland are 2-0 after two rounds while France is 1-1 and must play tourney-favorite England in London later in the series of games. Italy ranks last at 0-2 and, as such, is favored to win the “wooden spoon” award given to the last place finisher. Scotland and Wales are in the middle of the pack.

Thomas Castaignede,  flyhalf for the Blue, is not optimistic

     France has a stout defense but a lousy offense (not very fast, poor ball handlers) and will have to improve, particularly against an English side that humiliated Italy 80-23 on Saturday. The French coach is being badgered by the sporting press here as to why he doesn’t replace his faulty halfbacks. In response he pointed out that most of the top halfbacks in the French professional league, which forms the pool of players for the national team, are foreigners. That won’t work.
     The series continues in two weeks with France getting a breather against Italy, England hosting Scotland, and Ireland at Wales.


LOCAL - January 2001 update
Dukes “fight” for playoff spot
Les Ducs se battent pour gagner une place
January 2001...The locals have had a pretty rough time of it over the past six weeks, losing three times, winning twice and “losing” a 10-10 tie at home against one of the league’s top teams. The net of it all is that les ducaux are mired in eighth place in their fourteen-team “pool”. Any lower and they would be out of the playoffs. Any lower than that and they’d be in danger of being “relegated” to a lower division for next year.
     The last two games (January 14 and 21) were both at home at Uzès’s Stade de Rugby and marked both high and low points in the season. On Sunday afternoon the 14th, before a big crowd, the Dukes hosted the league’s top team. Le Tiel is a team affiliated with a club in a higher league and benefits from being able to play many of the second-stringers from the bigger team. Depleted by injuries and a few temporary demotions, Uzès faced a “must win” situation.  Over here, in rugby as in soccer, the game seems to be all about winning at home and hoping for a tie on the road.
     The demotions, by the way, came about due to the Uzès coach’s fury at the team’s awful play in December when they managed to lose to two of the league’s weakest teams, including a very rare loss at home. Demoted to the “B” squad, the offending players showed their manliness by refusing to show up at all until the date of their reinstatement. Since this is essentially amateur rugby (who knows who gets what under the table, but one of Uzès top players, the former Romanian international player Bricci, surely is paid for his efforts) one feels some sympathy for them.
     Anyway, beset by injuries and suspensions, and facing a crucial game in depleted condition, Uzès’s cunning entraineur devised a special strategy against highly favored, first place Le Teil:  Uzès kicked off, ran down the field, and every player started a fight with his opposite number on the visiting team. The bewildered referee took ages to sort it all out. He tossed out one Uzès player for the remainder of the half, and tried to get a rugby game going. The poor man had limited success. Fights were the order of the day, (see accompanying photos) detracting from what turned out to be a nail-biting disappointment for the locals. Uzès has shown little offense over recent weeks and their kicking game is awful, a terrible handicap in rugby. The defense, however, has been stout all year and, with an easy penalty kick converted early in the half, went to the break tied 3-3.

StartScrum.jpg (77390 bytes)

In the second half it was all defense and more fights. (Ultimately two players from each team were thrown out for good, all in more-or-less separate incidents.) Finally, Uzès scored a well-deserved try and converted the kick afterwards to lead 10-3 with about ten minutes to play. Sure enough, the clearly superior Le Tiel squad buckled down and started grinding toward the Uzès goal line. After a heroic three-minute goal line stand, Uzès yielded the tying try and conversion. Time ran out almost immediately thereafter. Tie: 10-10. But the Le Tiel players exulted as though victorious while the Uzès players drooped in agony.  Usually even a highly favored team considers a tie on the road good enough, but given the fierceness of the play and the last minute comeback by Le Tiel, it did feel to a spectator as though Uzès had “lost” despite their courageous struggle.

Fight1.jpg (61347 bytes)

Last week, January 21, Uzès hosted a team just below them in the standings, La Mure.  Back at nearly full strength, the Dukes welcomed returnees from the injured list and from the entraineur’s doghouse list, as well as rejoicing in a beautiful 60 degree afternoon at home against questionable opposition.  It was 38-3, Uzès at haltime.  Subs were liberally inserted throughout the second half and the final score was 52-20 in a game that was not nearly that close.
      Uzès has a tough homestretch in front of them, with more games away than at home and more games against top teams than against lower ones. Admittedly sketchy on inside scoop, this observer concludes that, encouraging as the last game may have been, Uzès faces a tough road to a playoff berth. The defense is excellent, but the offense can’t be judged by one good performance against a relatively weak team, and the kicking still stinks. Particularly in playoff road games, a team just has to get some points on the board if it is to succeed. We shall see. Further reports will follow.









NATIONAL - November 2000 update
France 42           New Zealand All-Blacks 33
Allez les Bleus!
November 20...Our local minor league rugby team, the Ducs of Uzès (see below), have been on the road lately, so we settled in front of TV France 1 last Saturday night to watch the big time. This was a quick rematch between the French national team (les Bleus) and the New Zealand All-Blacks, synonymous with rugby excellence for more than half a century.
     The recent history of the this rivalry is that last year, at the Rugby World Cup, France stunned everyone by thrashing the All-Blacks in the semi-finals at Twickenham (kinda the Yankee Stadium of rugby, in England) before losing to Australia in the final. France’s prowess in rugby had always been questioned until that match, so the Kiwis came to France with a reorganized team and serious revenge on their minds. Revenge themselves they did in the first of the two “test” matches. In the first match, at the national stadium in Paris, New Zealand fell behind early but came roaring back to pretty well thrash a mistake-prone Bleu squad.
     A week later, in Marseille (France’s second city), it was the French who confronted the question of whether or not they’re for real. Well, they’re for real. France leapt ahead early, again; then fell behind late, again; but came on to dominate the late going and win. Toward the end of the match, while the outcome was in doubt, all 55,000 French fans in the Marseille stadium rose to their feet to sing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. Presumably inspired (one observer here was a bit teary-eyed while the other lustily sang along), les Bleus scored the final points to cement the victory. Le jour de gloire est arrivé!


LOCAL - October 2000 update 
Let’s go Dukes! 
Allez Ducs!
Rugby.jpg (82384 bytes)

Uzès 24   Bièvre 16


October 31...We’ve found a local team to root for:  the Uzès Rugby Club of the Third Division of the French amateur league. Since Uzès is “the First Duchy of France,” all the local teams seem to be called the Dukes, naturally enough. Our locals wear blindingly bright red-and-yellow uniforms (one of us claims they look like boxes of Tide on the field) and have their own sweet little stadium right here in town.
     France has four Divisions of men’s rugby:  a professional league; National Amateur Division I (big cities); National Amateur Division II (middle market), and National Amateur Division III, for small towns. Uzès plays in Poule (League) 7 of National III. Right now the Dukes stand fifth among the twelve teams in the league, comprised mostly of teams from Languedoc-Rousillon and the Alps-Maritimes.
     Last Sunday we attended the Uzès match against Bièvre, a town near Grenoble in the Alps. The Stade Rugby is a ten-minute walk from our home. Admission was a steep six bucks a head. Glorious fall afternoon. Uzès won 27-16 after leading 17-3 at half, then tossing in a “just so we don’t lose” second half effort. This was an expected result as Bièvre is in eleventh place in the league.
     The players are really quite good but also really quite small. Uzès has one player who’s about 6’2’’ and 200 pounds, but the rest of them are really little. Very skillful, however. We’ll return again for this Sunday’s match, learn more, and report more.
     Two bits of context, to close. First, the French are truly (surprisingly?) wonderful at Rugby. In last year’s Rugby World Cup the French thrashed the New Zealand All-Blacks in the semi-finals but fell to the Aussies in the Final. This year’s European Cup, for professional club teams, is at about the halfway point, but thus far the French teams are kicking some butt (English butt, Scottish butt, etc.) and looking very strong. Second: beer and rugby always seem to go together, and the stadium, crowd and team in Uzès are no exception! Small draft beer: 10 francs, a buck and a half.


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