CASTRES, FRANCE – It would be easy to assume that, for a rugby fan living in France, it would be almost impossible right about now to avoid the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014. After all, it is taking place here. And Les Bleus are among the favourites. And it starts on Friday. In Paris.
It would be easy to assume that it would be all over newspapers’ sports pages, at least, somewhere slightly below the Tour de France.
Certainly, you’d think, it would usually – late-night machete attacks on Clermont Auvergne players notwithstanding – be front and centre in the rugby news, given that the Top 14 doesn’t start until August 15/16. It may, even, occasionally, break into a main news slot. Just a little mention, like they do on Sky News over in the UK.
You’d be wrong. On the whole.
French sports newspaper L’Equipe carried the following rugby news recently:
Crusaders will face Waratahs in the Super 15 final
Aurelien Rougerie, Benjamin Kayser and Julien Pierre returned to the training ground to see their clubmates following the machete attack. They will not return to full training for a month
Carl Hayman has been named captain of Toulon
Stade Francais manager Alain Elias has left the club
Toulon’s away kit for the new Top 14 season will be grey
Top 14 new boys Lyon beat Oyonnax in a pre-season friendly
Toulouse’s new recruits, including Imanol Harinordiquy and Toby Flood, had their heads shaved, as Toulouse new recruits always do
Castres beat Colomiers – on the road – in a pre-season friendly
Argentina beat Grenoble in a pre-season friendly
And Montpellier beat Saracens in a pre-season friendly
At the time of writing (Saturday, July 26, 8.30pm, France time) L’Equipe did have a clickable World Cup header in its Rugby section – but the stories there are about the men’s game. Not next year’s Rugby World Cup in England, you understand, but the last one in New Zealand. In 2011.
To find anything about the women’s game on the L’Equipe website, you had to hover over the word “Plus” on the far right; underneath Federale, Angleterre and Pro12, you’d find Elite Feminine. And there you’d find… fixtures for the opening round of the regular season in September.
That’s not to say L’Equipe has no news about the Women’s Rugby World Cup finals in Paris. Heaven forbid. On July 1, it reported that the local transport system will run a free bus service for fans.
Local newspapers are doing better. They’re carrying features about their players in various national squads. The Midi Libre and Ouest France both carried a piece about the American team in training, for example. With pictures.
But, despite the efforts of the local press, coverage for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in the host nation has been, so far, on the poor side of dismal.
I know that free-to-air broadcaster France 4 will show the three French pool games and any knockout phase matches Les Bleus are in, plus the final. To see any other games – bear in mind I live in the host nation – I either have to be there or tune into pay-TV broadcaster Eurosport. Which I don’t have.
France does have a deserved reputation for sporting jingoism. If a French team loses in just about any sport, broadcasters do tend to cut away to an extended ad break rather than force viewers to see the other side lift the trophy. It’s very abrupt – “Oh, we lost. Well… Bye.” Ads. And it can be quite funny, sometimes, especially when great French sprinting hope Christophe LeMaitre trails in 10 to 15 metres behind Usain Bolt, yet again – but this is a World Cup event, guys. And you’re hosting it. It deserves better than this…
I hope things get MUCH better in the remaining time between now and the start of the tournament – especially once the Tour de France finishes.
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@ :RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Jaime Loyd, DJ Eberle, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.