It’s always good to know a little about what’s behind the scenes. Or behind the scenes. True, why do we always use English words? Perhaps the perfume of the European Cup, and finally the smell of the Euro-South African Cup, inspires Anglicism so easily. In short, Midi Libre trailed MHR for 36 hours this Sunday, April 2 during Exeter’s trip to the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.
You need to release the pressure. It’s 1:30pm at the Montpellier airport and Jean-Baptiste Elizalde is unbearable. MHR’s head coach has just become aware of a potential trip if they qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup. Paris-Cairo, Cairo-Rwanda and Rwanda-South Africa. A total journey of 22 hours, a flight can be shared with the Welsh team from Newport.
As for the status of the former international scrum-half (35 caps), we don’t know if he is more concerned about the physical integrity of his players or their ability to overcome his fear of the iron bird. “But hey, let’s think about tomorrow’s game first, then we’ll see”, he tries to relativize. Because yes, the Stormers have a round of 16 to play against Exeter before thinking about a potential quarterback with the South Africans.
To access it, Montpellier residents leave the day before, Saturday afternoon, minutes after captain’s practice. Departs at 3 PM. Soldiers pass by little by little Duty free A good hour before. Some are already in the bubble, helmets over ears. Others, like George Bridge, see Sharks-Munster with a good chunk of staff. No one falls for candy, otherwise he is very sensible.
2:40 pm, direction climb. No airport forgets their passport. A special plane is chartered. A few teammates and ex-players are there, and come to visit Montpellier’s iconic ex-captain Patrick Chenery in the 90s, originally from Exeter and stricken with illness. Also present is Fulgens Oeutrako, who is now the club’s ambassador.
Saint-Andre slips away
Jean-Baptiste Elizalde has reserved his place alone in the front row. Every passenger unplugs their tablets and headphones to make the journey. Meanwhile, employees take computers outside to work. Minutes passed, still no departure. “Slight delay due to Air Traffic Controllers strike”We find in the pilot’s still barely audible microphone.
After an hour of drifting around, the engines finally fire up. Directions Exeter Airport. Scrum half Leo Colley tries to catch the internet until the network is down to see the start of the match between the Stormers and Harlequins. After 1 hour 45 minutes, check into your hotel in Exeter, next to Sandy Park, the next day’s venue.
6 pm. Everyone takes their place. Some hang out in their rooms, while others stay in the hall to enfranchise the world. The players have an appointment at 7pm for food. At the same time, Elisault teaches the partners a lesson (see elsewhere).
For his part, Philippe Saint-Andre walks away. Sporting director Luke Cowan-Dickey meets Harry Williams, future MHR hooker and right stalwart, and current Exeter players. Sam Simmonds, the Chiefs’ number eight and future Montpellier resident, is excused to quietly prepare for the next day’s match. With the other two, long-term injuries (neck and knee), it’s time to take stock. The content of this exchange will be confidential. In the evening, after two beers and a glass of red, nothing helped. Saint-Andre is a cemetery. No serious information will be released that evening. Even less on the side of Elizalde or Alexandre Ruiz and Joan Cadullo, the assistant coaches, and the players left in their room at the same time. A final drink is served to partners and volunteers on the rooftop of the hotel.
Chicken-pasta at 8:30am.
Sidekicks, not so much. Everyone was in their rooms before 10pm. Tomorrow, no traditional breakfast. See you at 8:30am for classic chicken and pasta. The disadvantage of playing at 12:30 p.m.…
After several tens of minutes, drive to the hotel parking lot. In basketball, corrections of certain touches. The entire crew goes for a short walk to digest quietly. At 11:30am, a few bandages, final treatments and a final wrap complete the preparation before heading out to the field.
The atmosphere is rather rural. The excitement isn’t crazy, but the public is. We were also served a “double pint”, a 1 liter mug of beer and a sausage/pork burger. It would have been rude to refuse…
Banga Amosa by taxi
The kick is given. “We have to take advantage of the end of this season, next year, there will be no more English clubs“A VIP whispers, tucked behind the press box, bemoaning the ongoing crisis in rugby across the Channel.
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The gameplay is insane. One hundred minutes, nine tries, unbearable suspense… Even if the MHR cracked the Kong, it will grow from this game (33-33, loss on difference of tries).
No time to shower, time to head to Montpellier. Brandon Benga-Amosa, 3, suffered a fractured anklee The minute of the match, the rush was thrown. From the bottom of the toes to the top of the thigh. He reaches the airport by taxi and wheelchair. “How are you bro?”, a couple of players whisper. Zach Mercer isolates himself. His expulsion was difficult to digest (50e) and apologized to the band. “I hope the GPS data works”Thomas slips Dormon, who has been on the floor for the entire crowd, eager to see how far he’s pushed his body.
By 6pm, everyone is on the plane. Paenga Amosa is downstairs, alone, and sends a video message to her partner to reassure her. After takeoff, a player lies down for a few minutes to stretch. Curtis Langdon goes back and forth, blood running after such a scene. “I haven’t played in six weeks”, he reminds us to echo our question about his status after 97 minutes on the field and 32 tackles. Some hide Mohamed Houwas’ shoes and hat, then close their eyes and have fun. Brave…
Staff, for their part, are already on their computers to explain the meeting, especially to understand some of the refereeing decisions. Elizalde, still ahead, is disappointed with the result, but somewhat reassured that he won’t have to cross half the planet next week. Even more so when the plane finally lands in Fréjorgues. 9 pm. Bodies are chewed up. But they have time to rebuild the next day against Castres on April 15.
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