Yoann Maestri: “I want to cut rugby completely”

yoann maestri – former French stadium second line Like other iconic players in the Top 14, Yoann Maestri (65 games) hung up his boots at the end of last season. He returns to the reasons for this choice and the memories of his career, after different outings in Toulon, Toulouse, Paris and the French national team.

How have you been feeling since your decision to leave rugby?

I am very happy with my choice. In September, I think there will be a little twinge in the heart to see friends back on the field, but I’m not sure, because I’m happy with what I’ve been able to know during my sports life. Now I look ahead.

Was there a click?

It happened little by little, with time and training. Rugby is getting more and more demanding. The average age of the teams is decreasing. In recent years, young people have been arriving with phenomenal energy. There are also many good things for French rugby, with the Jiffs (players from the French formation, editor’s note). Young players take advantage of their opportunity. Over the years, you feel a little less chills, so you have to know how to listen to yourself and not exaggerate the season. Play for the right reasons and keep the passion alive. Sometimes it’s better to walk away. 35 is the average age. Some leave a little earlier, others go a little further. And then there is also the body and the head…

Was physical fatigue the determining factor?

I think it’s mostly mental fatigue, the desire to have something more in life. Switch to another equally impressive life and take on new challenges.

You finished your career at the Stade Français, the only club where you did not win a title. What do you remember about your four years there?

A complex adventure with many changes. It got mixed up. We had great moments with arrabas victories, but too few. Sportingly, it was complicated. Paradoxically, I enjoyed my life here in Paris. I will also remember certain meetings with players who have been at the club for years and who make the future more positive than what we have done in the past.

What went wrong?

I do not know. But if I did, I would keep it to myself and those interested. I don’t like to talk about it too much. If we had won, I wouldn’t make a mountain out of it either, because it’s a matter of very little. There is one club that laughs at the end of the year and thirteen that cry. We were too far from the final battle. When you’re that far away, there are several things that don’t work.

Internally, were there any words between you after the home defeat against Brive? (17-33) during the 26th day of the Top 14?

(sigh) No, it was the end of a lackluster season. The most important thing is to look ahead and change certain behaviors, otherwise the events will happen again. There are so many things that go fast in this sport. It takes commitment and a strong desire to believe in it.

Return to your personal journey. You played from 2012 to 2018 in the French national team, often being an undisputed starter. What memories do you have with the Blues?

It was complicated in terms of results but strong in terms of the energy we put into it. There are wonderful memories because you represent your country. Unfortunately, at the level of the 6 Nations Tournament or our overseas tours, we did not fight for the top spots. Despite the changes in players and personnel, the results remained the same.

Did you disagree with this billing?

No. Rugby is made of human adventures. The staff made their choices. If he was there, he deserved it. No one was making sure we couldn’t get there. There were not the expected results, so there was rotation.

In comparison, what is your view of the current team?

The boys seem to be very well prepared. They are focused on their role on the pitch. Despite the lack of common experience, there is a lot of confidence in this team. I was surprised by the result of the British barbarians, especially the French, who put fifty on the English at Twickenham. (21-52, June 19) with a week of preparation and a few snacks! But also for the ten consecutive victories, including the last two in Japan with players who participate a little in training and then arrive with great mental preparation. They do not doubt their performance. You have to practice a lot. The team is impressive in terms of presence and consistency. There is a huge swimming pool.

Is there a player that stands out to you more than the others?

(He thinks) Gregory Alldritt. It is important in La Rochelle and the French national team. His energy on the pitch is phenomenal. Catches shots on defense and shows great volume of play, hurts defensively and manages to play standing up behind him. I find it very thorough and mentally tough. It does not weaken. His energy tires opponents.

Doesn’t he regret too much that he didn’t play with this France XV?

Honestly, no. I don’t regret it. My life is not just about rugby. Sometimes you do everything and it doesn’t work. And there are times when you arrive a little by chance, and everything smiles at you. I know a lot of players that I played with when they were a little younger. They deserve it. I know what it’s like to have much more negative results, so I also imagine what it must be like to win those games. The quality of the work of these players and their preparation must be highlighted. What they are doing is not easy, but it is very beautiful.

A Pro D2 shield with Toulon in 2008, a European Cup and two Brennus with Toulouse in 2010, 2011 and 2012. What do you remember about your seasons at Rugby Club Toulonnais and Stade Toulousain?

There was strong competition, whether in Toulon or Toulouse. I wanted to give myself 200% to seek common goals, to not let go, to dominate our rivals. I was very lucky to have experienced this. These moments mean that men have become a little later. Moments of great solidarity, commitment and defeats keeping us united. I am grateful to have experienced them.

Are you proud of your career path?

Pride is very ego and you can do without it. In life there are always difficult moments. We can be demanding, but the moments we have experienced are magnificent and promising for the future. We must have the humility to say that we are lucky to have lived through all this.

Was there a title more meaningful to you?

No, because every title was magnificent. It crowned a long, hard, but very beautiful season.

A word about Guy Novès, your coach in Toulouse from 2009 to 2015 and the French national team from 2016 to 2017?

He was our mentor. Someone very demanding, very difficult, but also very close to his players. He taught us the way to a very high level. He really wants to win. He’s an incredible competitor.

He was recently courted by South African franchise the Stormers. Why didn’t the exchanges go further?

Stormers manager John Dobson contacted me about doing a year there. But today, the South African provinces have seasons similar to those in Europe. Training starts again in July or August, and the season ends in June. I told him I didn’t feel able to commit 200%.

Was there any doubt?

No, just a thought.

Tell us about your retraining after your career.

I will be away from rugby for a while but it will remain the sport that has brought so much to my life. I stay in Paris where I have an art direction, creation and communication agency with my brother, which has nothing to do with rugby, at least for now. It excites me and my life will be full. Why not come back in a few years to coach a youth team and see what it’s like to interact with young players. I imagine it must be exciting. It will be in a second time. There, I want to completely cut with rugby. It’s just a moment in life. We stop our career at 35, we are still young men. If you make a world of this life, you never recover.

What will you remember from this great adventure at the highest level?

(Think for a long time) I’ve never been very good at talking about my emotions related to my sport. I will keep a magnificent picture of it from start to finish, from my younger years with childhood friends, after my moments in Toulon. There, players like Soane Toevalu, Philip Fitzgerald or José Suta accompanied me when I was a very young rugby player, among all the stars of the time in Toulon, coached by Tana Umaga. Then there were the years in Toulouse, the French national team and the French stadium. It is a large painting that is personal to me. I’ve always given it my all. Although pejorative, my rugby wasn’t really about the ball, but mostly about the collective commitment of fifteen men taking care of fifteen others on the ground. To be able to meet again an hour, a week or ten years later, having the great emotions of shared fights.

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