After thirteen years of loyalty to the yellow and blue of Clermont, Morgan Parra wore the rose of Paris this summer. It will be one of the curiosities of the next season. However, the international scrum-half (33 years, 71 caps) has no intention of landing in the capital as a tourist. An insatiable competitor, he dreams of ending his career in a great adventure. And, in the corner of my head, the idea of going to look for one last title.
How is the recovery going at the Stade Français?
Very well, my family and I arrived a week after the championship ended. For us, the goal was to get settled as quickly as possible, as there were quite a few changes. We went on vacation and I finally came back a week before the restart. The welcome from my colleagues was great, I am in perpetual discovery. I learn from each other both on and off the field.
What memories of Clermont have you kept in your suitcases?
Full, of course. The two Shields, great moments lived in the “Michelin”… All this is part of my story and even my life, but I chose to discover something else after having done it for a long time the question of extending myself to Clermont. ASM was entering a new phase of its project with many changes, I think it was the right time to leave.
Once the decision is made, do you regret it?
none If I had it to do over again, I would do it again without hesitation. It was important to experience something different and for me it was the last chance of my career. I couldn’t miss it. And as for the choice of the French stadium, he has no regrets either. I tried to see where I would be most useful and Paris seemed like the best place. The Stadium has a competitive team fighting to regain its position.
In your departure, there is that of López and the withdrawal of Fofana. Do you measure shared path?
We’re all passing through, you know. But it’s even better to leave a trail. I am lucky to have been French champion twice with ASM, to have experienced crazy moments and to leave a mark on the club’s history. But I’m not someone who looks back. This story is like with the French national team: of course, I would have liked to be in the shoes of the youngsters who won the Grand Slam and to be able to experience a World Cup in France… Except I didn’t. without remorse I advance This is my story.
What did Clermont miss last year to play in the play-offs?
constancy We didn’t know how to take advantage of our opportunity in the important moments. We simply weren’t up to par in decisive games. in Perpignan, for example… We gave too many chances to other teams.
Why did you sign at the Stade Français, and not another club perhaps with more sporting security?
I considered the question of living a completely different adventure, where I could contribute something more to the collective. But I also wanted to hear a different speech, to find myself in a context where it was up to me to adapt. Everything is new here: the logistics, the operation of the club, the way of life. I am somewhat in the shoes of a young man who is taking his first steps as a professional. I’m not pretentious, I don’t make big promises. I just want to try to see myself as much as possible in a club and contribute my qualities. Today, the Stade Français suits me better, in many ways.
You had explained your choice to come to Paris to provide more rigor. Can it be extended?
I am not saying that there is no rigor at the Stade Français, far from it; it would be disrespectful to the work of Gonzalo Quesada, Laurent Sempéré, Julien Arias and all the staff. But from experience, I know that the little details matter. I’m talking about the game itself here. For young people, the details may not matter. But, upon arrival, that’s what matters most. And only the players can adjust them, not the staff. I want to bring this dimension of demand to a young team, which has less experience. You know, in thirteen years at Clermont I acquired a culture of rigor; it’s true on and off the pitch, with the ‘Michelin’ education. At certain times, maybe it was too much… So, if I have to be able to bring that rigor to Paris, I also come with the idea of finding a bit of madness off the pitch.
You are in the same position as the much younger Arthur Coville. How do you judge this competition?
We are ten years apart, it really bothers me! (River) I was surprised to be the biggest of the bunch during the first training sessions… Yeah, last season at Clermont was right. But there, there are gaps of 10 or 12 years. It’s weird! Whether it’s Arthur or James Hall, my aim is to work well with them, as with the other players. The most important thing is that the team rotates. I am not here to teach them a lesson, but to discuss and share our desires. Arthur, James or even Joris (Seconds) are players with completely different records, full of talent and indispensable to the team.
Was Gonzalo Quesada’s presence in Paris decisive in his choice?
I knew him as a goaltending coach, but not as a head coach. I have a lot of respect for him, we shared great moments and he had something to do with the success I had in the penalty shootout. It made me progress, adopting a new routine to write with my own pads. I remember changing my “tee” because of him. Since then, I have never changed.
The randomness of the calendar means you’ll get to know Clermont on day one…
The first match is against Clermont but it will be played in Paris, above all. I would have preferred us to move there, to have a little less stress at the start of the game. It will still be a strange time! But I will not go to the wrong club, I will fight for Stade Français.
A word about the French team running at full speed, with many talented scrum-halves. Would you say Lucu is closer to your style of play, behind Dupont electrifying everything?
Dupont, there is only one in the world. You can tell me there are “Dupont styles”, okay. But players like that, there’s only one. I don’t like to compare, I just note that we have quality. Couilloud is there; El Garrec arrives right behind; “Old people” like Serin or Lucu have great qualities. But in the other positions we are also well supplied. We have everything to win the World Cup.
The French Barbarians are back from a mini-tour of the United States. Are you drawn to the Baa-Baas spirit?
For sure ! It is a particular state of mind, the pleasure of the game and the external pleasure. There is no headache. I appreciate it and if I get the chance to be called one day, it will be with great pleasure!
How do you rate the evolution of the scrum-half position since your professional debut in 2006?
I started at eighteen; when I watch some of my first games, I realize it’s not the same rugby at all! And my position has evolved in all areas. Before, the No. 9 just needed to slot in behind his pack of forwards. Today he has to be a good walker, make good passes, carry the ball, control the game… Today’s rugby is more perfectionist, more physically and psychologically demanding. Before, four clubs claimed Brennus and today there are ten. The players are training more and more, the sticks are getting stronger and the data is there. Everything is analyzed to go faster and stronger. This is the point of the story. Before, once again, we threw the ball to the maximum; now, there is the choice between a thousand departures from colonies, a thousand sets of feet. Teams are constantly adapting.
Could you have changed your player profile?
No, I do not think so. I don’t have the physical qualities to. Every scrum half is different, with some similarities, but always with differences.
Do you think No.9 profiles like you or Connor Murray are in danger of extinction today?
Most of all, I hope rugby keeps us going for another two years! (laughs) If so, I’ll sign right away. So much the better if my style still matches. If this is no longer the case, it will not be my responsibility.
With the French stadium, you will play the Challenge Cup in South Africa. What do you think about the arrival of South African teams in the European Cups?
I’ll be honest: it’s a great experience for the players who will face these franchises but, for me, it’s not called the Champions Cup anymore. It used to be the European Cup, with meaning and history, too. I have nothing against the southern hemisphere but today is no longer the European Cup. Let them say something else and say that the European Cup no longer exists. And it’s the same for the Challenge Cup, it doesn’t exist anymore. For me, both competitions should not be played with South African clubs.
Why have you never been tempted to go to the southern hemisphere, to live a different experience?
I asked myself the question at the end of my contract at Clermont, but I was not ready to leave so far with the family; I need to stay here to find my balance and feel good every weekend. When you exit there, you reset everything. It’s a lifestyle choice. I did another one heavy in rugby, but also in the other components.
You are co-president of the Metz club. Why did you embark on this adventure?
The club was a bit adrift and the former president asked me if he could count on me to stimulate something new. I played there for many years, my father and my uncle played for Metz. It remains my heart club. I told myself that many children would like to have the chance to have an adventure like I was able to do going to Dijon, Bourgoin, Clermont and then Paris. It was important that the club did not get relegated from Fédérale 2. Even from a distance, I felt that I could contribute something. We have tried to put training back at the heart of the project, work with the surrounding clubs and make sure that Metz runs well and stays in Federal 2. The aim is not to have goals to go up to Federal 1, nor in Pro D2. We want to focus this club on its young people: allow some to leave to aim higher and those who stay to continue playing at a good level.
Already, in Clermont, you intervened with the fan clubs in the area…
I like. The lads I was able to coach are masons during the day and come to play rugby in the evening. It’s the sport I learned about with my father and uncle. It’s what I appreciate.
You said you have no regrets. But if you could change one outcome, what would it be?
Being European champion in 2013, with the ASM. When you’re young, you see the great teams lifting the Brennus shield and the European Cup on TV. Me, I saw Brive and Toulouse, so I wanted to be between them… We were so close, that year… This final maybe forged me a little more, and also made me grow.
What first piece of advice would you give to Morgan Parra who is starting her career today?
Keep the notion of pleasure, which is the basis of this sport. Rugby allowed me to live my passion, make a good living, do so many things outside. This is priceless.