Not sure he would have chosen this hotel in Fukuoka, a palace where the price of cappuccino can be scary. Not sure either that he would have spent a good month in Japan. Normally Benoît Piffero works as "Sales manager of an agency" and plays in the amateur club of Blagnac, in the French third division. Full days, from Monday morning to Friday afternoon. Except in World Cup season.
Like other participants in Tonga, Uruguay or Namibia, Canada's replacement hooker is not professional. But he participates in his second World Cup, after having placed a leave without pay. "I do not make money, because I would even be willing to pay to play. " As for this entry in the second half, Tuesday, October 8, facing one of the best, South Africa, largely victorious (66-7) in Kobe.
The trip to Japan will end soon. One more game before elimination in the first round, in five days, against Namibia. "Last match on Sunday 13 October and landing in France on Tuesday 15 October in the early afternoon. From Thursday or Friday, I will have to be at work. "
"It's not the same life"
Return to work, but also in his club. This season, the player will get the majority of his income from his work at the agency, but will also receive a semi-professional salary with Blagnac. Cumulative "Approximately 3,000 euros net per month", says the young father of two children.
Before the World Cup, some have made chickens for him. "They told me I was going to finish leaching. But washed out of what? We only do rugby, maximum two training sessions a day. The rest of the time, we can drink coffee, we have two physios at our disposal. "
Short, "It's not the same life" in Blagnac, where there is a series of work days and three weekly training sessions, and as many physical preparation sessions. "In France, I already feel happy: I have a job in an office, I'm not handling the shovel since the morning, as may be the case for some. That's hard. "
In selection, Benoît Piffero competes with two neoprofessionals: Eric Howard (New Orleans) and Andrew Quattrin (Toronto). "Running is not a problem. The hard part is in the physical impact. " Born in Montreal, the 30-year-old grew up in France, trained at the Clermont and Montpellier clubs. "Physically, both are better than me at bodybuilding. But I try to compensate by my technique of the melee. "
A roofer summoned in extremis by Tonga
Difficult to quantify, in this World, the exact number of amateur participants or semi-pros. " Between 15 and 20 Tongan players refused to come to the national team because they can not afford it financially ", says Tonga coach Toutai Kefu, quoted in L'Equipe.
There is still room for exceptions. Siua Maile, 22, is a roofer by profession. If the player finds himself in Japan, it is after answering … a call for candidatures urgently launched on Facebook by the Tongan team to find an operational hooker – the kingdom having just over 100,000 inhabitants, the arms are precious.
Grant Doorey explains to World to have little illusions. He will be "More and more hard", according to the Tongan assistant coach, to observe this kind of story. " Between a pro and an amateur, a difference is seen especially in the habit to cope with the pressure ", he believes after the short defeat of his own against France (23-21), Sunday, October 6 in Kumamoto.
Professionalization is increasing
Uruguay illustrates this trend towards professionalization. The current group, which surprised Fiji (30-27) early in the tournament, has eighteen professionals (not his captain, Juan Manuel Gaminara, financial consultant), against four in 2015, according to Reuters.
"In Uruguay, the number of trainings varied, but it could be three times a week, for example"says Arata, 23, a professional in Houston, USA, this year.
Previously, the scrum-half still had a semi-amateur status: "When I played in Uruguay, I was training all year long with the national team. The federation gave me money so that I have enough to live while continuing my studies. "
The player explains it to World in a small, almost deserted room in a Kumamoto palace. This Tuesday, October 8 in the evening, no other confrere than the journalist employed for the "rugby news service", the official channel of the World Cup.
Hooker Benoît Piffero is particularly eager to share his meals with women and children. His youngest son will celebrate his two years on October 13, Canada-Namibia Day. "I already have his present: a pair of shoes with Winnie the Pooh. " And surely not bad stories to tell him for later.