The Russians, who play their second World Cup, lost Tuesday against Samoa. It is a former French journalist in Moscow who contributed to the practice of this sport at the time of the USSR.
At the Rugby World Cup, the Russians today have a Welsh coach (Lyn Jones). But they also have a distant French grandfather. The story goes back to the beginning of the USSR. For Jean Nau had another peculiarity than that of being " the oldest of the French journalists of Moscow ", correspondent of Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the daily newspaper The Team. " Passionate about sports, he helped introduce rugby in the Soviet Union », according to the brief of the World published at his Moscow funeral, in June 1981, at the age of 76.
This is the story of a British sport developed by a Frenchman. An accountant by training, Jean-Baptiste, of his full name, specifies The Maitron. According to the biographical dictionary of the workers' movement, he went to the Soviet country as early as 1928. The former secretary of the Nantes section of the Jeunesses Communistes was then between 24 and 25 years old. He introduces himself "As Secretary of the Red Sports International", supposed to coordinate the various organizations of communist athletes (1921-1937).
One time, the young man is planning a return to France. "A telegram says he wants to leave the USSR while he lost his place at the Red Sports International and that he seems to carry a rather bad impression on the country "informs Rachel Mazuy, researcher at the Institute of History of the Present, who had access to the archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Finally, Jean Nau settles well. Get married twice, including one with a Bolshoi ballerina. And so turns to journalism. In 1960, it was as AFP's local correspondent that he signed a contribution for Mirror rugby, monthly close to the French Communist Party. Title of the double page with photos: "Where is rugby in the USSR?" The magazine presents the author as a man "Rugby fan (…) who launched there the first rudiments of the oval ball. "
"Good rugby lawyers"
In his text, what The world consulted, Jean Nau favors a chronological approach. Not to mention the encounters played during the Russian Empire, he recalls that "Rugby was virtually unknown in the USSR before 1930". The "First real test" to popularize the practice would be in "The year 1933". That year, Dynamo Moscow faced the Institute of Physical Education to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Dynamo, an offshoot of the Ministry of the Interior. "Although intensive propaganda was organized around this meeting, it only achieved a great success.. "
The following year, Jean Nau claims his role as coach during a trip to Belarus. Far from the Russian capital, he said to have framed a Moscow selection party face a Minsk formation. But it is still necessary to wait two years, in 1936, so that starts the first championship of USSR. The competition includes four teams and turns to the advantage of Dynamo Moscow.
Seven years after Stalin's death, and four years after Khrushchev's report on the bloody record of his predecessor, Jean Nau made an important stalemate in the story. He attributed to the Second World War the slowdown in the practice of rugby, however omitting the following years. Those during which Stalin proscribed this sport of bourgeois origin.
Under Khrushchev, rugby bounces. Again, with the help of French, according to Jean Nau. In 1957, Moscow organizes the World Festival of Youth and Students. "The French representatives of the Sports Federation and Gymnastics of Labor, on the organizing committee, were good advocates of rugby, which they knew how to appreciate the character of complete sport, educational, collective, making him admit among the sports adapted to the festival. " The mini-tournament brings together representatives of Romania, Czechoslovakia … and the Welsh team of Llanelly, "Strong of many international", He said.
Conclusion of the text, in 1960 : "The Rugby Union of the USSR can very well appear in international meetings with the Romanians, Poles, Czechoslovaks, before being able to oppose the French and British. "
Half a century later, at the opening of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Russian "bears" fell in Tokyo against the host country (30-10). Tuesday, September 24 in Kumagaya, they also lost to Samoa (34-9). Always looking for a win since their first participation in 2011.
Rugby World Cup: find all the groups
Group A: all you need to know about Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Russia and Samoa.
Group B: all you need to know about New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Namibia and Canada.
Group C: all you need to know about France, England, Argentina, Tonga and the United States.
Group D: all you need to know about Australia, Wales, Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay.