Is there a better place to be a professional rugby player than the South of France?
It’s safe to say that some places in the world offer professional athletes more culture and cuisine than others. Often, sportsmen go where the money takes them and that could be to the rain of Manchester, the leafy boulevard of La Rambla in Barcelona, or the beaches of Cagliari in Sardinia. You need to have a very talented agent to get the best of both worlds; a stunning place to live and a juicy salary every month.
Fortunately for the professional rugby players in the South of France, they are treated to both. Indeed, The splendour of France’s southern cities is well documented but it is only once you have tasted the wines of Provence or wallowed in the Mediterranean on a blistering day in July that you will ever be able to know what life in the south is truly like.
You also get a feeling that the people who live on the French Riviera and in the Midi-Pyrénées know just how good they have got it. Indeed, there is a certain swagger to their walk and an unspoken acknowledgement on their behalf that they live in a place that is a lot nicer than the one you come from. And as for their rugby teams, well, they’re just as impressive.
The South of France is represented by three teams in the Top 14 League and they are Toulouse, Toulon, and Montpellier. All three are of course in stunning regions but their fortunes in the league do vary. Toulouse is certainly the most decorated side in the French league and are the defending champions of the Top 14. Crucially, they have the financial power to bring in players from all over the globe.
Toulouse also happens to produce not only some of the finest French wine but also the best rugby players the world has seen, and are doing so again in 2020. Romain Ntamack is the latest prodigy to take the world by storm and it’s no coincidence that the Six Nations odds have France as favourites to win the competition for the first time since 2010, given the part that this young man plays in the side.
Further to the east and Montpellier are on the way up again these days after some rather underwhelming seasons and like Toulouse, they are beginning to splash the cash on foreign players in a bid to see the glory days return. The latest big-name player was South Africa’s World Cup winner Handre Pollard who joined the French outfit at the back end of 2019.
Towards the south east, Toulon have only ever won the title four times with the latest being in 2014, but they do sit higher than any of their other southern counterparts in the league this season.
All three teams have tasted success in their own right but even if you were a professional at either Toulon or Montpellier, the two teams with far fewer accolades than Toulouse, you would still be extremely content with your lot in life given that you wake up in one of the most picturesque places in the world every day to play a game you love.