French love affair with Australian rugby

Jerrabomberra's Phil Hopkins, pictured in navy, with the successful Club Athletique Perigueux 1901. Photo: Supplied.
Jerrabomberra's Phil Hopkins, pictured in navy, with the successful Club Athletique Perigueux 1901. Photo: Supplied.

Jerrabomberra's Phil Hopkins has returned to Australian shores, following a successful season in the south west of France at the helm of Club Athletique Perigueux.

Prior to Hopkins arrival, the squad was demoted from the second division to the fifth and lost seventeen of its core players. But in the midst of a rebuild, they managed to snare the Challenge Cup, the Promotion final, and wound up as champions of their pool.

Hopkins attributed the team's success to their willingness to adopt his playing style and a deep and ingrained French love of the Australian approach to rugby.

"The Brumbies and Wallabies were like the flavour of the month over there and this is because of the reputation of Australian rugby, and in particular what goes on with the Brumbies," Hopkins said.

"The Brumbies are really well known which has led to a number of them going over to play in France.

"There is limited money currently in the Australian game, with only five truly professional clubs, albeit with one of them struggling [the Western Force].

"With players who are true competitors will always want to play at the highest level possible and at the moment France attracts the top players from all over the world."

Hopkin's statement is backed up by the fact that the three highest paid players in the world are all employed by French clubs, namely Racing Metro (Dan Carter) and Toulon (Matt Giteau and Leigh Halfpenny) respectively.

"It's possible due to the private ownership of many of their clubs, plus the TV money," Hopkins said.

"Top players are idolised by the French public, it certainly leads to extraordinary living conditions for many and a fantastic lifestyle in a country full of historical rugby culture."

This story The French connection first appeared on The Queanbeyan Age.