“Mr. Macron’s words gave me a lot of strength,” says Guilhem Guirado, a young retiree.

At the Stade de France,

It is well past midnight in the bowels of the Dionysian enclosure. Long after finishing this Top 14 final won by Montpellier (29-10), the winners of the Hérault and the losers of the Castres arrive, often with a beer in hand, in the mixed zone. Guilhem Guirado, on the other hand, wears a magnum of champagne. A well-deserved luxury. At the age of 36, the Herault prostitute finished her career in apotheosis, with a second French champion title after the one she won with the club of her native Catalonia, Perpignan, in 2009. history of the MHR, too.

Even his early departure with a concussion protocol from the 27th minute, after a dangerous entry of the CO captain, Mathieu Babillot, did not disappear his happiness. The former captain of the 15th depressed era of France (2016-2019) this time shows the mine of a happy man. And he takes the opportunity to twist the neck of an urban legend: no, he never spoke of “encouraging defeat” when he had to comment on another crack of the blues.

Already, how are you after this outing on concussion protocol?

Very very good. Unfortunately, according to the doctor, I did not respond favorably to the test. During a concussion protocol, you have 10 words to remember and repeat. I only managed to remember six. You can imagine that with the challenge of the match, the pressure, I wasn’t very focused on that. The images showed that on percussion, my arm comes out and wanders. No risk was taken. In fact, I mostly complained of the throat, though I don’t think it was on purpose.

The most important thing is these 10 or 15 minutes of madness while some so-called specialists said that we did not know how to play rugby, that the final would not be attractive. We scored three tries in 10 minutes, I don’t even know if it ever happened in the Top 14 final.

As other Montpelliers have also suggested, the leitmotif before this final was, therefore, “us against the whole world”. This lever of motivation is as old as the world, right?

That’s not it at all. We were despised and not favored in both games (the half and the final). But I knew the strength of the group and I knew what we were capable of. I have nothing against the press, nothing. But maybe some of them didn’t believe in us because they looked down on the group and the players that make it up. What I liked was that the leaders took matters into their own hands and that the staff did a very good job during the three weeks that we just spent. For “Fufu” (Fulgence Ouedraogo, out of the group for these final stages) and for me, that we are stopping our career, even more so than for the others, is quite exceptional.

Finishing this title, with Philippe Saint-André to guide you, after the difficulties you both experienced in the French team, is also a beautiful symbol …

Yes, but we are not avengers. We are no longer in the French national team, the story is different. We have known the difficult years but it has helped us to question ourselves. When I came back in November to watch Les Bleus ’match against New Zealand (40-25), I felt it would be fabulous to finish my career here. I didn’t want to say it too loud and clear because I’m too cautious, I didn’t want to get carried away. Today has been very strong. My family and friends came to support me. My son had never had a chance to see me play at the Stade de France, unlike my daughter. It will keep a beautiful memory.

Looking back, how do you see your long career?

That I get old, that I have to make room. No, I’m proud. Maybe the only pity is losing two league finals with Toulon (2016 and 2017), but that made me stronger to come back. I can’t blame the RCT because they offered me the European Cup (in 2015). Above all, I was very, very moved by Mr. Macron’s words before the game. They were strong and gave me a lot of strength. Especially because behind it was the president of the Federation and my former coach in Toulon (Bernard Laporte). It touched me and made me want to come to this final even more. It’s the apotheosis, it’s huge.

Guilhem Guirado and Fulgence Ouedraogo end their careers with a Brennus Shield with Mohed Altrad's Montpellier (left).
Guilhem Guirado and Fulgence Ouedraogo end their careers with a Brennus Shield with Mohed Altrad’s Montpellier (left). – Franck Fife / AFP

Was the message of the President of the Republic very personal?

It was objective. I don’t know what he said to the other players, but I felt he was sincere. I saw him again at the end of the match and thanked him (Emmanuel Macron “especially thanked” Guirado for the “fights” made during the “difficult years” of the XV of France).

It is also the first title of Mohed Altrad, who has headed the MHR since 2011. Which president is he?

He is quite discreet, we see him especially during matches. He has a lot to deal with. He saw through us something he knew very little about business. He broke his teeth for quite a few years and succeeding tonight is something strong for him and his family. We also think of all the veterans who created this club and gave everything to be able to return it to the top category in 2003. But also the volunteers, the leaders and the Montpellier players who are waiting for us this Sunday, I hope.

What is your program now?

Two months of partying! I have no recovery in August, you can imagine it will be a great summer.

And then ?

I became in the world of insurance, with AXA in Perpignan. It’s time to leave something beautiful to the youngsters of Montpellier to keep the club at the helm.

Are you going to cut with rugby?

It would be better. The training, we will see later. Maybe coaching young people … I’ve had my head in rugby for 20 years, every weekend. Going for a weekend with the family can be a lot and above all it will be a novelty.

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