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©Nbirrien St 6j0a7097|Nathan BIRRIEN
Internshipsof champions

par Bruno BOUBIN

Saint-Lary Soulan: a land of rugby

Rugby is the story of a ball with friends around it, and when the ball is gone, the friends remain.

This famous phrase by former French team captain Jean-Pierre RIVES sums up what rugby has always been about at Saint-Lary Soulan. A band of friends representing first their village, then their valley. A way of meeting up, growing together and creating shared memories. As if the game with this oval ball, with its anarchic bounces, was just a happy pretext. A moment of sharing, solidarity and personal commitment in the service of a collective. An excuse to experience third halves that are long remembered with emotion. Land of rugby par excellence, Saint-Lary Soulan still nurtures a passion for “this thuggish sport played by gentlemen”.

The history of rugby

in Saint-Lary Soulan

In 2020, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Club Olympique de Saint-Lary Soulan, Jean-Bernard VIDAL looked back at the history of rugby in our valleys. The “Saint-Lary-Sport-Rugby” was created in the late 1920s. The first team was made up of veterans. Under the impetus of Monsieur Poirier and Vincent Mir, the club, which became “Aure Olympique”, would gradually become more structured. Until it won the final of the Championnat de France de 4ème division in 1948. As Henri MIR recalled, not without mischief, when evoking this final against Sainte Florine played in Capdenac, dietetics was already the order of the day. The team set off with 3 hams, 2 lambs ready for grilling, around thirty round loaves of bread baked in the valley oven, 3 cow’s cheeses, apples and… an 80-liter barrel of wine.

A training club

which has gradually modernized

For some forty years, Aure Olympique has trained numerous players. The most talented played for clubs such as Bagnères, FC Lourdes and Stadoceste Tarbais. Two of them, Jean-Henri Mir andJean-Pierre Mir, even went on to play for the French team. Some, however, were keen to return to their original club, which in 1970 became the Club Olympique de Saint-Lary. Since then, two more have joined them: Nicolas Bacqué and Nans Ducuing. This change of name has created a new dynamic. The old players were able to pass on to the younger generations that spirit of local rugby that forges an identity. The club has gradually become more structured, with the creation of a rugby school. Many players have gone on to play for professional teams in TOP 14 and Pro D2: the Bernad brothers, Christophe André, the Lebriquet brothers, Mathéo Coustalat, Theo Vidal…

Olympic Skiing Games

at the Rugby World Cup

Almost twenty years after hosting the French Ski Team in preparation for the 1968 Grenoble Olympics, Saint-Lary Soulan once again found itself at the heart of the sporting news. Vincent MIR, then village mayor, was a great friend of Albert FERRASSE, emblematic president of the Fédération Française de Rugby. He had persuaded him to bring the French national team to Haute Vallée d’Aure for a training camp in preparation for the first Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 1987. This initiative was repeated in 1991 and 1995. Appreciated for its environment and the quality of its infrastructure, Saint-Lary Soulan has remained a preferred training ground for many professional rugby teams.

Annual meeting with our teams

TOP 14 and Pro D2

The professionalization of rugby has forced clubs to diversify their preparation. Training courses and green breaks before championship finals have multiplied. Saint-Lary Soulan has the infrastructure to host them. Adapted sports facilities and accommodation. A wide range of activities in exceptional surroundings. In the summer of 2022 alone, players from Colomiers, Aviron Bayonnais, Castres Olympique, Union Bègles-Bordeaux and Biarritz Olympique will have trodden the turf of the stade Pierre Bacqué. A little useful clarification: Castres Olympique, Racing 92 and Stade Toulousain became “French Champions” after having held their preparation camp in Saint-Lary Soulan. From there, it’s hard to believe that this little village in the Haute Vallée d’Aure is incubating future champions …

While it remains a rugby land, the commune of Saint-Lary Soulan has made sport more broadly one of its priorities. The aim is to equip itself with all the facilities likely to encourage sporting practice for its inhabitants and to meet the training requests of amateur or professional teams.