French star baulking at SA teams' entry into Europe
INTERVIEW: Scrumhalf Morgan Parra has hit out at the decision to allow South African teams to compete in next season’s European and Challenge Cup competitions.
The 33-year-old is adjusting to life at Stade Francais, following his recent move to the French capital after 13 seasons at Clermont – the club he joined in 2009 after originally making the professional level breakthrough at Bourgoin.
Parra went on to win 71 France caps before retiring from the Test stage post the 2019 World Cup.
He has now also called time on his extensive stay at Clermont and has chosen their 2013 European Cup Final loss to Toulon in Dublin as the result he would most love to change.
Speaking in the latest edition of Midi Olympique, the French rugby newspaper, Parra revisited the agonising Dublin Final defeat from nine years ago and added that the time was right for him to finally leave Clermont this summer and seek out a fresh adventure elsewhere in the Top 14.
“To be European champion in 2013 with the ASM,” replied Parra when asked if there was one match he would like to change.
“When you are young, you watch on TV the great teams that lift the Brennus Shield and the European Cup.
“Me, I saw Brive and Toulouse [win in Europe], so I wanted to be among them. We came so close that year. This final perhaps forged me a little more, and also made me grow.
“All this is part of my story and even part of my life, but I made the choice to discover something else after having asked myself for a long time the question of extending at Clermont,” he added about his move away this summer to Paris.
“ASM was entering a new phase of their project with a lot of changes. It was the right time to leave.”
An irony is that Stade Francais will host Clermont in the opening round of the new Top 14 season, a September clash that is sure to be weirdly emotional for Parra.
(Continue below …)
He’d rather embrace that, though, than get his head around the prospect of South African teams playing in the 2022/23 European competitions.
Stade is due to fly to South Africa in December to take on the Lions in Johannesburg in the Challenge Cup, before hosting them in Paris the following month, but the inclusion of these Southern Hemisphere franchises in the two European tournaments is something that has upset Parra.
“I’m going to be honest. It’s a great experience for the players who are going to face these franchises but for me, it’s no longer called the Champions Cup.
“Before, it was the European Cup – with real meaning and history, too.
“I have nothing against the Southern Hemisphere, but it is no longer the European Cup.
“Let it be called something else and say that the European Cup no longer exists.
“And it’s the same for the Challenge Cup, it no longer exists.
“For me, the two competitions should not be played with South African teams.”
Sources: Midi Olympique & RugbyPass