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French Rugby Column 251 || By: Howard Johnson

April 24, 2020 2 min read

With the pound sliding like a drunk on an icy pavement it’s not exactly
been a Happy New Year for many of the English living in France.
Retired folk on fixed sterling incomes and those who work for English
companies have felt not just the pinch, but rather the full force whack
of a baseball bat as the euro has muscled its way to one to one parity
with the pound. But it’s not all doom and gloom, especially not for
English rugby players, who have suddenly become a jolly attractive
financial proposition for French rugby clubs.


Alerted to the fact that top English players may now be available for
something like two thirds of what they were being touted around for a
year ago, French clubs are suddenly grabbing their rods and are
setting off to indulge in a spot of fishing ‘outre Manche’ (across the
channel).


It’s fascinating to see the rumour mill crank into overdrive and check
out which names are in the frame here, of course. Only time will tell
which of the players mentioned are the product of nothing more than
the fevered imaginations of journalists with too few ideas and too
many blank pages to fill and which are genuine contenders for the Top
14. But there’s no doubt that my rugby-loving French friends are
getting very excited indeed about the prospect of Jonny Wilkinson
heading our way. Never mind the fact that his injury record strikes
abject fear into the hearts of physios worldwide. Apparently Bayonne
and Toulon are more than ready to welcome Wilko with open arms.
Most interesting, perhaps, is the fact that none of France’s big boys –
the Toulouses, Stade Francais and Clermonts of this world – have said
they fancy signing England’s Golden Boy. Nor his heir apparent for that
matter. With Danny Cipriani having supposedly refused a new contract
at London Wasps there’s talk of Bayonne, Brive and Perpignan
fancying a punt on him. A long-term replacement for Dan Carter at
Perpignan, anyone? Well, I guess stranger things have happened!

Perhaps the most surprising rumour of all concerns Wasps lock Tom
Palmer, who is supposedly being tracked by Stade Francais. I’ve
always liked Palmer myself, but his profile in France is non-existent, so
it would be a hell of a move for the second row if he were to end up at
the capital city club. A much more likely move to France could well be
that of Newcastle Falcons centre Jamie Noon, a player who apparently
interests all of Racing Metro Paris, Montpellier and Brive. Noon’s
combative, all-action style would go down well with French fans who
love to see a bit of crash, bang wallop up the middle of the pitch. And I
have to admit it would make a mouth-watering prospect to see Noon
lining up in the same Brive outfit as my personal favourite hardman
Gerhard Vosloo.


Time was when everybody jumped on the ferry at Dover looking for
bargains on the other side of the Channel. But the world has suddenly
been turned upside down and now the boot is very much on the other
foot. Especially the rugby boot!