“When I put on the Algeria jersey, I feel like I’m wearing armor”

This Thursday morning, the rays of the sun sprinkle the Parisian suburbs. The clock shows 10:30 a.m. and the mercury is already around 30 degrees. A stone’s throw from the Nationale 315, around fifteen rugby players rehearse their ranges in closed scrum on one of the grounds of the Claude-Luboz complex. Despite a few small frictions inherent in this type of hormonal exercise, the atmosphere is studious and the coach’s instructions are followed to the letter.

Around the green rectangle, a handful of elementary school students speak out: “Come on Gegen! (short for Gennevilliers) » The battle cry is not that of CSM Gennevilliers. « Tahya Aljazayir (Long live algeria !) », chant the players, in unison, to mark the end of their session. The doubt evaporates: it is not the local rugby club that warms its shoulders, but the Algerian selection.

“A huge boost for our selection”

In the Hauts-de-Seine, at the end of June, she came to carry out a ten-day preparation stage. With the line of sight, the greatest challenge to take up in its young history: to afford a qualification for a first World Cup.

From 1uh on July 10, in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, it will participate in the Africa Cup, which brings together the eight best teams on the continent (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, Senegal and Zimbabwe ). The winner of the competition, which will take place with knockout matches, will validate their ticket for the 2023 World Cup, which will take place in France (September 8 – October 28).
“Who would have thought that one day Algeria would be three games away from a Rugby World Cup?questions, with a smile, Sofiane Ben Hassen, the president of the Federation. This tournament will be a huge boost for our selection. It will give it exceptional visibility. »

Leaning on the handrail of the stadium, sunglasses on his nose, the former right pillar observes the training of his protégés. After having scrapped for a long time on the meadow to advance rugby made in DZ, he is now working behind the scenes.

“We did with the means at hand”

In November 2015, when the Federation was created (5,000 members before Covid-19), he was elected president. With his collaborators, he then constituted it until the acquisition of the status of full member of World Rugby, the organization which manages international competitions, a year ago. This allows him today to be able to participate in a qualifying tournament for a World Cup, the first in its history. Proof of the path traveled by the Algerian XV, which was born in the heart of the 2000s.

” When I started (2007), we managed with the b… and the knife , remembers current forwards coach Nasser Ben Amor, posed in front of a glass of water. We did with the means at hand: we paid for our ticket to come, our hotel rooms and we clubbed together for food. » “The first time I came, I was asked to take my picnic for lunch”adds Mathieu Lorée (35), whose first cape dates back to 2018.

Since then, the selection of Algeria has grown well. In Gennevilliers, she takes advantage of the facilities of the club which will evaluate in Federal 1 next season. Three training grounds, a weight room and a treatment room, the club house as a canteen and meeting place and access to the swimming pool next door: the Lions are like roosters in dough.

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REPORTAGE. Rugby: “When I put on the Algeria jersey, I feel like I’m wearing armor”

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