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Rugby: “More than a game”, the documentary committed to the cause of women’s rugby

“More than a game, rugby is a warrior’s sport.

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Rugby: “More than a game”, the documentary committed to the cause of women’s rugby

“More than a game, rugby is a warrior’s sport.” In a few words, the production managed to capture the essence of this fascinating documentary, available from Sunday on Canal. For several months, the cameras of the encrypted channel followed the women of Stade Français Paris, the year of their rise to Elite One.

An idea brought by François Cusset (director of the Yes Sir production company), which he submitted to Stade Français and its general director Thomas Lombard. And the latter was more than enthusiastic, describing a film carrying “full of emotions”. And more than that, because this report is committed to the cause of women's rugby, whose players do not benefit from professional contracts, even in Elite 1, the equivalent of the Top 14.

François Cusset was also inspired by the story of Wanda Noury, a pioneer of women's rugby union in the 1970s, who wanted to continue to develop the discipline despite the contrary wishes of Marceau Crespin, national sports director in 1972: “I think that rugby – a contact sport requiring qualities of endurance, fundamental robustness and virility – is contraindicated for young girls and women for obvious physiological reasons.” Wanda Noury ​​will notably ensure that the French women's team plays with the rooster on its jersey.

During the 70 minutes of the report, the viewer can follow the season of the “Pink Rockets”, the nickname of the women of the Parisian club. After dropping to Elite 2 at the end of the 2021-2022 season, they are seeking to return to the highest level of French rugby. Tests and tackles on the pitch, scenes of joy in the locker room, but also defeats and tears, this report retraces all the key moments experienced by the “girls” of Stade Français during the 2022-2023 financial year. And the revenge taken on La Rochelle, which they beat in the final after having lost a few weeks earlier in the championship.

Throughout this story, the cameras focus particularly on five players, with very different profiles and personalities. Doriane, Fanny, Esther, Bintou and Doriane are police officers, students and even mothers. As players with amateur status, they take their free time to come to three weekly training sessions, and play matches across the six corners of France. A true daily life of “warriors”, in which “people from different social backgrounds and cultures […] manage to appreciate each other despite their differences”, explains Thomas Lombard.

And that's actually what touches you the most during this documentary. Of course, the final victory and the rise to Elite 1 please the spectators, especially as the laughter of the players, present during the preview, enhances everything. But it is their humanity, which shines through throughout the documentary, which touches hearts, confirms the general director of the pink soldiers: “I believe that beyond rugby strictly speaking, what is wonderful in this film That’s what he’s saying and the girls we’re going to see reveal themselves.”

Unlike the men's team, whose professional status is their main activity, most of the Pink Rockets cannot make a living from rugby and must make immense sacrifices to continue the adventure. Bintou, in the report, perfectly describes his relationship with the oval ball: “a toxic love”. A situation which does not date from yesterday, and which is the reason for “More than a game”. Because more than a report, it is a feature film which is committed to women's rugby. “I would love this project to have educational continuity,” said François Cusset after the screening. But to see more changes, and to see the status of the players evolve, we will have to wait.

This is at least the opinion of Esther Fabre, captain of the Pink Rockets this season and who was the subject of a focus in the report. The second row spoke to Le Figaro, and first praised the initiative of making a documentary on women's rugby: "Any visibility is welcome, the report will bring us media coverage and therefore people who will be interested in it, who will see how women’s rugby is going.” And added, with a smile on his face: “It was super moving from the first images. I was already starting to get tears coming at the beginning because this is what we experienced a few months ago..."

But it's not a documentary, as exciting as it is, that will solve all the problems. According to her, their status as amateurs is a reflection of “society, the more things improve in society, the more things will improve in sport”. As for being able to make a living from rugby, you shouldn't put the cart before the horse: “I think I'm in the generation a little too early. I can’t predict the future but it’s not right away,” she concludes.

To discover the adventure of the Pink Rockets and their accession to Elite 1, Canal will broadcast the documentary this Sunday at 11:15 p.m. It will then be available for replay.

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