by COLIN RENTON
High esteem, howlers and happy dippers
The French Top 14 final saw Clermont Auvergne, who will be joined by Greig Laidlaw next season, beat Toulon to lift the title for the first time since 2010. While the match itself was an entertaining affair, there were also plenty of other talking points.
Clermont had two Fijian players and Toulon one, and all three earned praise for the respect they showed to Emmanuel Macron during the pre-match line up, kneeling as they greeted the newly-elected president.
The post-match interviews revealed an error on the part of the Toulon kit manufacturer. The match was the final appearance for the club of Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Juanne Smith and Jean-Charles Orioli, whose names were stitched into the collar. But, the text on the front of the shirt had ‘RC Toulon-AS Monferrant’ instead of Montferrand. That called for remedial action and, when Giteau appeared for a post-match interview, the error had been corrected with the use of a marker pen that had reduced the opponents’ name to ASM.
Meanwhile, unable to make the trip to the final, four supporters who had over-celebrated Clermont’s victory decided to conclude the evening with a visit to the house of scrum-half Morgan Parra, whose boot was instrumental in the win. The quartet climbed the security gate for a skinny dip in Parra’s swimming pool.
The player was less than enamoured by their antics and reported the incident to the police. However, he subsequently accepted an apology from the supporters and withdrew his complaint.
Blue card to help with welfare worries
Greig Laidlaw will not be the only Scottish rugby player settling into life in France next season. Jade Konkel has signed for Lille Metropole in the women’s Top 8. The 23-year-old sees the move as an opportunity to develop her game. It will also mean that she participates in a trial aimed at addressing growing concerns over head injuries. The French Rugby Federation (FFR) is introducing a system that will allow a referee to show a blue card if the official believes a player has suffered a head knock. The player will not be allowed to return to the pitch and will be forced to take a ten-day break from playing. The trial also covers matches in the third tier Federale 1 league.
Munstermen in the money
It’s a sign of just how tough it is to make profits in professional rugby that it took a hugely successful campaign to see Munster transform a €1.93 million (approximately £1.7 million) deficit the previous season into a €310,000 (£273,000) profit for the 2016/17 campaign, according to Irish media. Beaten finalists in the Guinness PRO12, and exiting the European Champions Cup at the semi-final stage, the province increased gate takings by more than €2 million (around £1.8 million) – a record nine matches were sold out – and received a €1.5 million (£1.3 million) grant from the IRFU. As evidence of the importance of progressing past the pool stages in Europe, the profit from a full house for the Champions Cup quarter-final exceeded €500,000 (£450,0000), more than the combined total for contesting the PRO12 semi-final and final.
WRU roar with delight at Lions cash
On the subject of finances, here’s one for the conspiracy theorists. The Welsh Rugby Union has received a massive helping hand in its bid to sustain its four funded teams. In addition to paying a fee of around £70,000 to each of the players involved in the tour to New Zealand, the British & Irish Lions handed over a similar amount per man to each of the four unions to compensate for the unavailability of players for summer tours. A bias towards Wales in the original selection and a similar unseemly favouring of men from the Principality when replacements were called up means the WRU coffers have received a tidy boost of well over £1 million.
A dramatic outcome at Scotstoun
So, who knew that the job of the Glasgow Warriors mascot was such a tough gig? A recent advert on the SRU website invited applications from individuals with a ‘Background in performance/drama’ and ‘Experience in crowd performance’, while ‘Previous experience of mascot delivery’ was a desirable attribute.
The beers are on Freddie
The summer tours threw up their own moments of brilliance and madness, and another Frenchman, Frederic Michalak, weighed in with his own contribution. Captain of the French Barbarians against South Africa A, Michalak lined up a touchline conversion. As he did he so, he turned to the cameraman and offered to buy him a beer if the kick was successful. As the ball sailed between the posts, Michalak promised to keep his side of the deal saying, “I owe you one.”