The former international with 111 caps between 1985 and 1992 took advantage of the World Cup to share his views on the professionalization of rugby.
An anthology semi-final against Australia then the first World Cup final for the French XV in 1987, three Five Nations Tournaments (1987, 1989 and 1993), 30 tries in blue and fantastic rides, full center. This is what, among others, Philippe Sella will leave in the French rugby rankings and in popular imagery. Always present in the world of rugby, particularly amateur, the former captain of the Blues with 111 caps (1982-1995) is watching the 2023 World Cup with attentive eyes. The former three-quarter center, now 61 years old, answered questions from franceinfo: sport on the evolution of rugby over the last 30 years.
Franceinfo: sport: What is the difference between playing a World Cup now and in your time?
Philippe Sella: When we entered the fray, we discovered a lot of things. We already had to try to capture a new environment. We said to each other “wow, that’s what we would like, to be professional.” Like the XV of France today, we had to follow a lot of preparation except that for us, it had to be in our free time, after work. Physical recovery was more difficult because we were not used to doing so many hours of rugby. Tactically, it was also different, we didn’t work with video. We were much less prepared.
Plus, we were amateurs, we worked on the side. Today the players are completely dedicated to rugby. They can sometimes carry out personal actions at the same time, which is very good because their sport allows them to create links with companies, but their priority still remains rugby. Players must master an environment very different from ours at the time. But they are used to it, we see it in this World Cup, they know how this whole system works at a very high level.
Has this professionalization changed the values of rugby?
The essence of this sport cannot change. Rugby education begins relatively young. Now, players have the chance to have additional training from a young age, to be better prepared, whereas before it was once a week. They therefore save time in learning the different technical and physical aspects necessary for this sport. The famous values of rugby are therefore discovered at that time, from a very young age. That’s what changed.
They also evolve more quickly in their relationships with others, they learn what the collective is, communication and support.Philippe Sella, former captain and three-quarter center of the XV of France
at franceinfo: sport
Can the fact that rugby has become professional create even more vocations?
Young people today can project themselves more. When they discover their qualities, their abilities, they can say to themselves: “Ah, there is a certain club that is interested in me, I might like to become a professional”. Whereas before we just imagined training twice a week, playing a match on the weekend and doing our job on the side. This is how, little by little, the players confirm and embrace their pleasure in playing rugby and develop even more skills, even if they have to follow double training.
Is the dual project still necessary today?
You never know if the player will turn professional or not. And if he becomes one, there can still be something else after life as a rugby player, it’s even better because you can’t live from rugby forever. There are other sports where it is possible but not here. This is why dual training is important for young rugby players, it allows them to make this transition more easily. We absolutely must help them so that they can obtain their diploma at the same time as rugby, because you never know.