Pierre-Henry Broncan, head coach of Castres Olympique and president of the jury of the Tarn Amateur Rugby Trophies, which is being held this Thursday evening in Graulhet, talks about the bond that unites professionals and amateurs, and underlines its importance.
What does this role of president of the amateur rugby trophies jury have for you?
Already, I am very honored to be president of the jury. I’m not from Tarn, but amateur rugby is a rugby for which I have a lot of affection and on which I always have a benevolent look. Because I know that our professional players come out of amateur clubs, that they were trained by educators, mostly volunteers, and being president and present this Thursday evening is a fair return. I am delighted because, the players or the volunteers rewarded, I know that they have gained a lot in rugby. And our role, we professionals, is to pay them a beautiful tribute, to support them and accompany them as we can.
You have known the amateur and professional world. Is it essential in your eyes to maintain a close link between the two?
Yes and I think Castres Olympique does it very well through the 100% region. It’s easy in a pro club because we have the means, we spend our time playing rugby and are also paid for it. Quite the opposite of the amateur world where people have a trade or occupations on the side. And despite everything, they devote a lot of their time to rugby. It is important to maintain a close link because we must not forget that it is in these clubs that many future players are to be found, it is from them that the internationals of the France team have taken place. Be careful, Castres does a very good job with young people and its rugby school, but we are also happy to maintain this link with amateur clubs and to have players from their own who become pros with us.
During CO relocated training, did you show particular enthusiasm in the Tarn?
By all the clubs where I have been, often on decentralized sessions. There are the volunteers, the educators, but where I find it most fabulous is when these operations are held during school holidays or on Wednesday afternoons. Simply because the children are there. And that has a huge impact on them. Because the young boys or girls of these rugby schools who see the pros of Castres Olympique arrive, it will give them a fervor, an enthusiasm. And then our players are available, play rugby with them. It is important because if these children are good, they may become CO players, or certainly club supporters. During our last relocated training, in Mazamet a week ago, I saw two jerseys: those of the SCM, and those of the CO. Maybe a few years ago, we would have seen jerseys from several clubs, from Top 14 in particular. Today, we feel that the department is getting behind the CO.
Last year, Guy Laporte, former president of the jury, indicated that the amateur world had suffered from a lack of recognition. Do you find that things have changed over the past few seasons?
Personally, I never cut my ties with amateur rugby. Many of my friends take care of clubs, I also know the galleys of the amateur world… It is not easy because it is an outdoor sport, of combat, with more and more speed, which makes the tougher contacts. And it is faced with the emergence of other disciplines. I take my hat off to all those who fight to maintain the clubs in the villages, an activity that is also important for the population. The pro-amateur link may seem distant because the television media focus mainly on stars and speak very little about amateurs. But I can assure you that we are a group to respect amateur rugby.
In England, where you held a position in the Bath club, is amateur rugby different from French?
In the region where I was, there was only rugby, almost no football. The nearest big club was Southampton (Premier League), 2h-2h30 drive from Bath. The English amateur rugby stadiums have no stands, while it often rains, the grounds are a bit muddy. On the other hand, there are superb clubhouses, glazed, which overlook the ground and where people spend their time. I was especially impressed by the people who played. In England, amateur clubs may have three or four senior teams. Sometimes it starts in the morning and ends at 5 p.m. There too, there is a strong sense of belonging. In rugby schools, young people proudly wear their club’s jersey.