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The day the French rugby team went to train… in prison

Lili Auriat

In 1995, when the France team landed in South Africa for the start of this historic World Cup, the Blues embarked on a “commando” preparation. The training sessions are intense and the conditions difficult. The Blues even go so far as to play on the grounds of the Pretoria penitentiary center, against the jailers of the prison. Abdelatif Benazzi recounts this episode in “Les Géants du rugby”, an original podcast produced by Europe 1 Studio

There is no doubt that each World Cup has its share of sweat, physical preparation, intense effort and sacrifice for the players. But the training of the Blues in 1995 is… unique. On their arrival in South Africa, it is not state-of-the-art preparation centers that await players, says Abdelatif Benazzi in “The Giants of Rugby”, an original podcast produced by Europe 1 Studio.

Their training space: the grounds of a penal center in the suburbs of Pretoria. Their playing partners: the prison jailers’ rugby team, “monstrous” amateur sportsmen. And yet: “monstrous”, this is how ordinary mortals would describe Abdelatif Benazzi, the best third row in the competition, with his 97 meters and 120 kg! But now, facing him in training, there are players with “a 4m2 jaw and huge shoulders”. Partners who largely prefer to make contact than to make passes…

The mutiny of the Blues facing the commando preparation

The preparation is hard, and to denounce its “commando” side, some French three-quarters go so far as to shave their heads. Seen like that, the XV of France in 1995 seems more ready to shoot a remake of Prison Break than to experience the most significant competition of its career. And as the military cup is not enough, the Blues get together and set up a “union” to carry a single and unique claim: that of being able to go for a drink in town, to be able to discover the nightlife offered by the southern capital. African. A vital third half for the Blues.

The coach, Pierre Berbizier, gives in to their demands, but not without warning them: he is waiting for his players at the turn and will not let anything pass. So, disappointment or contract completed for the XV of France? Abdelatif Benazzi takes us behind the scenes of this 1995 World Cup in “Les Géants du rugby”, a Europe 1 Studio podcast.