Rugby / Thibault Lassalle: “The right time to come back”

I will turn 35 in August. I’ve always wanted to finish a year where I’ve played a lot. I didn’t want to make the season where you are, but it doesn’t do you much good. Physically, I had a lot of injuries, knees, ankle. I trained my teeth every day. I had the opportunity to redo one (year, ed.) With Oyonnax but it was the right time to go back. I have a house in Lourdios that I rented as a country house and we planned to get it back with my wife and the little ones. We have everything ready, she is waiting for us (laughs).

You weren’t far from bringing Oyonnax back to the Top 14 once again.

We have always been well placed in the standings, we finish better attack and better defense. We are not going far. Playing Bayonne in the middle, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. I played all season (21 games) but not in the finals. It’s a little frustrating to end up like this. The staff chose according to the shape of the moment or in relation to the profiles of the team. I didn’t ask …

I will turn 35 in August. I’ve always wanted to finish a year where I’ve played a lot. I didn’t want to make the season where you are, but it doesn’t do you much good. Physically, I had a lot of injuries, knees, ankle. I trained my teeth every day. I had the opportunity to redo one (year, ed.) With Oyonnax but it was the right time to go back. I have a house in Lourdios that I rented as a country house and we planned to get it back with my wife and the little ones. We have everything ready, she is waiting for us (laughs).

You weren’t far from bringing Oyonnax back to the Top 14 once again.

We have always been well placed in the standings, we finish better attack and better defense. We are not going far. Playing Bayonne in the middle, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. I played all season (21 games) but not in the finals. It’s a little frustrating to end up like this. The staff chose according to the shape of the moment or in relation to the profiles of the team. I didn’t ask for any explanation, so I take it.

What’s next?

I return to Béarn in early July when my little ones have finished school. We’ll enjoy it a bit and then I’ll do something else, I have a few projects that keep me busy. I want to keep playing with my little brothers and childhood friends in Bedous. To close the loop.

Without returning to FC Oloron?

I’ve always kept that in mind, especially since Vice President Pierre Serena is a very good friend. But unfortunately, since I had this ankle problem in Castres, a staphylococcus aureus inside the joint. It ate all my cartilage, I have a hole in my bone.

I fired so I could end my contract at Oyo. I no longer wanted to train three times a week. Oloron was afraid of not being able to carry everything he wanted to carry. Mostly because there are no more players of my generation.

During all these years, my wife has also made many sacrifices with our three little ones. Having to go far enough and not being there three times a week was too complicated.


Thibault Lassalle, here in 2018 after the title of champion of France with Castres.

Nicolas Sabathier archives

“After Agen, no one wanted me. I had imagined going home. Then Christophe got in touch with me, he changed the course of my life.”

Coaching, is this a career that interests you?

I graduated some time ago. I had a chance, I’m pretty close to Joe El Abd, Oyo’s manager. We’ve talked about it several times. But I see all you have to do to be at that level, I don’t feel motivated. I want to change course, get rid of all of this for now. So why not train at a lower level later?

How do you feel about this retirement, often called the “little death of athletes”?

I read the interview with Julien (Smoked) very carefully. We are of the same generation, we lived many things together in the sports studios of Bayonne. We have been training every day since we were 15 years old. I think it is being delivered. In my case, I feel like I’ve prepared it pretty well, but you never know how you’ll react. Physically, it will still be a relief to me. I got to the end. I will miss the matches, not the training sessions. I take it a bit as a challenge to see if I can do anything else.

Reference points

Career: US Aspoise, FC Oloron, SU Agen (2006-2012), US Oyonnax (2012-2015), RC Toulon (2015-2016), Castres Olympique (2016-2019), Oyonnax (2019-2022).
Awards: French Top 14 champion in 2018 with Castres, French Pro D2 champion in 2010 with Agen and 2013 with Oyonnax.

What memories do you have of those sixteen years of career?

Inevitably, the seasons ending with titles are the most beautiful. There is Castres (champion of France 2018), a wonderful human adventure, a bit like the one they do again. They are not necessarily the best players but a super united and very well prepared group. My three years there were great, I loved this club, very familiar.

I also remember my years in Oyo, especially the first three, the meeting with Christophe Urios and then what followed: the title in Pro D2, the maintenance and the dam in Toulouse where we were not far from demolishing them.

I have memories of all the places I’ve been, Agen and even Toulon where I only spent a year. It made me progress a lot as a player and as a man I also experienced the final stages of the Top 14 and the Champions Cup, the only one I experienced. There were players of an incredible level.

What went wrong in Toulon?

Looking back, I didn’t feel strong enough mentally. He knew the very hard management of Bernard Laporte (river). It made me grow a lot. There was a gap between group life with the Oyo boys, who became close friends, and getting to where it was completely different. Everyone did their training, their game and then they went home. But I loved the fervor of the audience, Mayol, the matches moved to Marseille, Nice, Camp Nou, it was amazing. I couldn’t adapt fast enough to be more individualistic. He was asking me too many questions when I was just about to do it.

I ask Mourad Boudjellal to release me after a year because I was still in contact with Christophe Urios. I arrived right after the treble at the European Cup and felt that Toulon would not win again in the next few years. I wanted to know a title at the highest level, which I got with Castres.

The writing advises you

The writing advises you

“I dreamed of being the new Richard Virenque, but considering my size I quickly realized it would be tricky.”

Christophe Urios, is this the coach that has made the most impression on you?

Absolutely, I had it for six years, it was an encounter that changed my sporting career and even my life as a man. She changed the course of my life. When I was in Agen it was very complicated, I had the two crosses, no one wanted me, I was 23, 24 years old and I really had no key to continue. I had imagined going home. Then Christophe got in touch with me, it was the turning point in my career. At first I didn’t feel like going to Oyonnax, and then when I met him, he convinced me five minutes later.

I loved the man. Beyond the coach, we’ve always had really good feelings. He was someone who knew me very well, he knew how to get the best out of me. This is their real strength, which the players trust. With this guy you can only succeed, he is a hard worker and he also trusts people.

You wore the blue shirt when you were young, but not when you were a senior. Is the France team one of your regrets?

Inevitably, there were two or three times I was not far away, during my time in Oyo and on the way out to Toulon. In a high-level career, in the end you get almost what you deserve. I wasn’t consistent enough to have that opportunity, injuries also penalized me at times. Of course, if I could have had that honor, it would have been great to taste it. I was still able to play the international level during two tours with the Barbarians, it was amazing.

Missing the Top 14 final with Castres after participating in this whole course was the most difficult moment (he was injured). Between us, we knew we would not be far from winning the Brennus. When you stop a meter from the finish line, when you see your friends finish, it’s hard.

This year 2018 is still amazing for your family as your brother Geoffrey wins the title of French 4th Series Champion.

We went through the final stages at the same time, it was huge to win the highest and the lowest. A fabulous wink we experienced as a family. This is the final moment of my career.

How did you get a rugby license at US Aspoise?

I signed for Bedous when I was 11 or 12 years old after the blue season at the 1999 World Cup. My dad is a big fan. But basically, my sport is cycling. I’m a Tour de France enthusiast, I dreamed of being the new Richard Virenque but given my size I quickly realized it would be tricky. I carry 118 kilos, I go downhill faster than uphill. My dream would be to cross the Pyrenees. But I’m not there yet (laughs).

Was your father’s political career at some point an obstacle to your rugby career?

No, I’m lucky to have a non-intrusive father. He always knew how to stay in his place. We are very close, I have never had any problems with anything he did. I’m proud of him. There was no problem there. It may have hurt me without her knowing it, but I don’t think so.

Thibault Lassalle won a Brennus shield with Castres Olympique.


Thibault Lassalle won a Brennus shield with Castres Olympique.

Nicolas Sabathier archives

The writing advises you

The writing advises you

The writing advises you

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