June 17, 2024


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England – France: “Everybody hates us”, as MHR’s four Englishmen confide

England – France: “Everybody hates us”, as MHR’s four Englishmen confide

Four Englishmen from MHR talk about the England-France match, their daily life in Montpellier and more. Meeting Zach Mercer, Elliott Stuke, Henry Thomas and Curtis Langdon this Saturday March 11th (5:45pm) hours before the crunch.

thin Actually, these Englishmen are good. Off the rugby field, their accent suddenly sounds sweeter, their humor and their company admirable. Well, you shouldn’t blow it too hard, especially for a few hours Crunchy Crunch at TwickenhamSaturday (5:45pm), unconquered by the French since the 2005 Six Nations.

But at MHR, more and more, we realize the total naturalness of roast beef. With four models on their staff this season, Montpellier residents have become accustomed to the presence of eternal “British” rivals. And the coexistence is bearable, almost pleasant.

I think the French make it a little more personal

It was enough to see several rooms of the ever good-natured when a member of staff or a player interrupted an interview with Elliot Stuke, Henry Thomas, Zach Mercer and Curtis Langdon at the club brewery ten days ago.

“Honestly, though France-England Always great meetings, I hope the French will make it a little more personal”, admits Zach Mercer, who played a part in the reconciliation of the two countries due to his influence on the Top 14 during Jonny Wilkinson’s time in Toulon. Pitches.

At the same time, everyone hates us“, Henry Thomas bluntly retorted. “Throughout history, many conflicts have resulted in these contests. “That’s what it looks like when you’re oppressing people, starving them, stealing their industry for centuries,” says the Right Pillar ironically, referring specifically to the rivalry between the English. “But we’re good people, yes,” assures Stuke, interested in seeing the French. who has

English rugby in crisis

He, like Langdon, joined the Herald in the season following the bankruptcy of their respective clubs (Wasps and Worcester). A career surge (15, a record) that justifies the presence of several of Her Majesty’s players in the Championship, highlighting the current crisis in England rugby. The evacuation should also continue Next season.

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The whole channel was not that surprised. “The game is not attractive enough. Rugby in England can be boring. The practice game, the rotten weather, the heavy pitches, the attacking bonus system… In France, the three-Test break never let the teams rest. Plus, in the Premiership, because of Covid, there is no up/down”, Stooke laments, underlining the structural flaws.

This is how a rugby club should be

“Even in the Top 14 and Pro D2, Canal + broadcasts all the matches. It gives the clubs an interesting income (about 20-25%). In England, only a few matches are broadcast. Cross is not. Not the same. Football is very monopolistic.” Langdon says.

“When you go to Clermont, Perpignan, Toulon, Castres… you feel the city breathes for its team. There is an economy around the club, there is local contribution. And then the atmosphere in the stadiums is incredible. The chants, the pressure on the referee, the supporters… you don’t know. It can even be a little scary at times. This is how a rugby club should be“, agrees Henry Thomas.

French integration

The four enjoy this “French” adventure. Even if the language is very “difficult to learn”. “It’s funny, but I had a problem with my pool. I had to call someone to fix it and I was lost,” smiles Mercer. But the presence of many Englishmen, including three ex-Bathers, is a strength for integration.

A large group of expatriates within the MHR also helps with integration. They have a dozen to meet regularly. “Finally, when Zach’s wife sends him out,” Curtis Langdon laughs wildly. At Grande-Motte Golf Course, sometimes. In town, you can often sip local produce or drink Guinness at Montpellier pubs like Fitzpatrick’s, O’Carroll’s or My Beers in Port Marion. Because yes, some clichés are respected. There are many in English.

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But there is the reverse. “For us, the French players were lazy, didn’t care about their physique, didn’t care about their weight, didn’t train very hard. In the end, my first off-season here was probably the hardest of my life, I never played. Such sharp guys, “Mercer admits. We also talk about the unpredictability of the French, the “French Flair” that supports Curtis Langdon. “It hit me when I arrived People’s “cool attitude”“, Stuke notes. “At noon, people take time to settle down. Here we are quiet. But works hard when needed. In England, there’s a fifteen-minute break to eat, and it starts all over again.”

Three more are approaching

The four Englishmen of the MHR accepted this new environment. “You have to recognize that the weather helps with everything. It’s not winter here. It’s not difficult to wear crampons in January-February. Not to mention the beach…”, concludes Henry Thomas.

For these four, the adventure ends at the end of the season. Zach Mercer and Curtis Langdon will join Gloucester and Northampton next summer. For Henry Thomas and Eliot Stuke, the future is unclear.

On the other hand, three other Englishmen should land in Montpellier next season. Third row Sam Simmonds (28, 19 caps), hooker Luke Cowan-Dickey (29, 41 caps) and right prop Harry Williams (31, 19 caps). All play at Exeter. Their coordination will be closely monitored. But isn’t it so hard to get used to life here?

The British in short

Zach Mercer

Aged 25, born in Leeds.
Position: Third line.
Measurements: 1.90 m, 111 kg.
Clubs: Bath (2016-2021), MHR (from 2021).
Choices: 2.

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Eliot Stuke

Aged 29, born in Worcester.
Position: Second line.
Measurements: 1.98 m, 122 kg.
Clubs: Gloucester (2014-2016), London Irish (2016), Bath (2016-2021), Wasps (2021-2022), Bristol (2022), MHR (from December 2022).

Henry Thomas

31 years old, born in London.
Position: Right pillar.
Measurements: 1.88m, 110kg
Clubs: Sale (2010-2014), Bath (2014-2021), MHR.
Choices: 7.

Curtis Langdon

Aged 25, born in Weston.
Designation: Hooker.
Measurements: 1.83 m, 107 kg
Clubs: Sale (2016-2022), Worcester (2022), MHR.
Choices: 2.

Tom Whitford, father

He is one of those men in the shadows. Tom Whitford, a former Perpignan skipper who is the most French of Englishmen (he just got his passport), has been MHR team manager since 2017. His mission? Manage players’ schedules and administrative concerns. For foreign players, he is more than that. On a daily basis, he works as a translator. Even outside the stadium, he is often called upon to help. “Many times, the players call me because they don’t understand what the baker, doctor or mechanic is saying. Last time, one of the players needed sliced ​​bread. When that happens, I ask him. Give the phone to the interlocutor and I’ll see him directly.” Whitford laughs. It sometimes presents funny scenes. “Sometimes the phone rings when they’re dating a girl,” he laughs, not without irony. But the dalliance between Tom and MHR will end next June as he joins Racing 92 to become right-hand man to future sky and white manager Stuart Lancaster.