With so many Brits now plying their trade in the Top 14, the life of rugby players in the South of France has never been so fascinating. To give you an insight, over the next four months we’re bringing you a series of ‘Postcards from Toulon’ – starring former England centre Tom May
“I’m now in my second season at Toulon and the question I get asked the most is: ‘What is the difference between rugby in France and England?’ In France it’s more about the one-on-one personal battle than in England. Up front they have to win. All teams pride themselves on smashing the other scrum. They have to put one over the other team and it almost becomes personal.
“All Frenchmen seem to love the scrum and the confrontation that occurs in the set-piece. When you’re playing other proud French towns, the forwards believe that when you win in the scrum, the town wins. You’ll always get supporters shouting about how it’s a war and it’s a very confrontational, hard type of rugby in terms of the physical approach. This translates into the pride of winning at home. We lost two home games at the start of the season and all hell broke loose, even though we were winning away.
“The passion from the fans is huge and we’ve seen a leap in attendances in the Top 14 this season, while I gather they’re down in England. In many areas of France, like Perpignan, Toulon and Toulouse, the number one sport is rugby and that engulfs a whole city. In England, we’ll never beat football.”
Speak to you next week…Tom May