PORTRAIT – The number 92 of Racing 92 will pay tribute to his first selection against Japan on Saturday. At 20 years old and with only ten Top 14 matches in the time trial.
Confusion often occurs. With his Anglo-Saxon surname, many initially believed that Max Spring was a South African or Australian player. Not so. The young Racing 92 rearguard is French, born on March 15, 2001 in Saint-Palais, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department. So why does this name sound in the southern hemisphere? Because his father, Sean, is a New Zealand Maori. Center or opener from Wellington, he landed in the Basque Country in the 90s to play rugby at the US Garazi, the club of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (now Navarre, and playing Federal 1). There he met Marylène, a nurse by profession. A union that gave birth to three boys, the big Max, then the twins Tom and Sam. Logically, Max (like his brothers) signed his first license at the age of five in Nafarroa, the Navarrese club where his father is now an educator. “My father follows his New Zealand roots. But I think he is now considered Basque“, has recently summed up the young Ile-de-France rearguard. Nicknamed by his fellow Naffarroa”Basque Z(Basque of New Zealand).
A serious hope for the Basque ball
If rugby is a passion that consumes everything …as far as I can remember, I have always known him with a ball in his hands. With his brothers, he had transformed the house into a fun rugby field. All three played games all day: in the living room, in the bedrooms, and to occupy them, sometimes he even had to organize games in the garden with the other children in the neighborhood. Max, he never liked cartoons or the Play Station. His thing was just the oval ball …“, Confided his mother to the Midi Olympique – Max also practices Basque ball regularly. Enrolled in the Zaharrer Segi, the club of Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry, it was then considered a serious hope for discipline.
From Baiona rowing to Racing 92
Max Spring always wanted to become a professional player. An ambition that materialized at the age of 15, when he joined the Bayonne Rowing Club (a club of which his family is a supporter) while joining the hopeful pole of Bayonne. “He had fought like a lion to pass his physical tests: sometimes even vomiting“remembers his mother. To immediately become an international U16, then in all the age categories that follow. At 18, Christophe Mombet, the coaching director of Racing 92, saw him and offered to join him. at the Ile-de-France club. He accepted the challenge, proving that Yannick Bru, who was his manager at the Bayonne Rowing Club, was wrong. “I thought it was too early. I thought it would be hard for him to leave his mark in his position, as Racing had Zebo, Dulin, Dupichot … But he was right. I say goodbye!»
Only ten Top 14 games on the clock
He played his first Top 14 match with Racing 92 on October 10, 2020, starting at the back against Stade Toulousain. “It was so crazy he told Midi Olympique recently. At 19, I found myself alongside players I admired and against others I have always had badés. That day, Toulouse had moved to La Défense with Kolbe, Ramos, Dupont … This first professional match, I will never forget …“However, he will have to wait almost a year to find the Top 14. Taking advantage of the injury of the Australian Kurtley Beale, this season he has played nine games, all as a starter (2 tries scored). Plus two Champions Cup matches. A right shoulder operation in December 2021 deprived him of a few additional charges. But it is, therefore, with only ten Top 14 games played that he is preparing to honor his first selection this Saturday (7.50 am) in Tokyo against Japan. With, however, an international premiere two weeks ago in Twickenham. Established behind the British Barbarians, coached by … Fabien Galthié, with a resounding success (52-21) against England. There he was distinguished by his increases and a magnificent attempt.
A pocket template
The young woman behind Racing 92 shows a physique far removed from the canons of professional rugby: 1.73 m by 75 kg. A lack of size that makes up for it with an iron mind. “His grandfather (grandfather, in the note of the Basque publisher) he always said, “You’re small in size but very big in your head, Max.” Despite his childish smile, Max is a true fighter“He admires his mother, Marylène. A back pocket but very present under the high balloons. And that is illustrated, thanks to his speed and his living supports, by his electric reminders.”He is strong in the basics of his position: high balls, kicks, recovery. It smells like rugby“said his Ile-de-France teammate Yoan Tanga this week.”His profile is similar to that of Brice Dulin, completes Laurent Labit, who had discovered him at Racing before finding him in Blue. He contributes a lot to the counterattack game.“It attracted so much attention from the tricolor squad that it will put an end, on Saturday, to twelve consecutive terms of Melvyn Jaminet behind the XV of France.