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The rugby story that grabbed international headlines this week concerned French rugby star, Mathieu Bastareaud’s announcement that he will play for New York’s Major League Rugby team, RUNY, starting next season. He will be on loan from his home club, Toulon, for one year, after which time, ostensibly, he will return to play in France.
Bastareaud possesses the highest rugby bona fides of a top echelon career at center He played in Rugby World Cups, Six Nations for France, and thirteen-years for two French sides in the Top 14, Stade Francais for two seasons, and eleven-years for Toulon. At Toulon, he played in their 2013 Heineken European Championship when he was named Man of the Match.
The move is unusual and speaks more to Bastareaud’s over-the-top personality than any other reason. He approached RUNY through his agent and agreed to earn half salary. He regards the switch as a “sabbatical” and cited that he is “a big fan of New York City.”
The popular French athlete comes to New York with a troubled past, including an embarrassing fabrication during the 2011 New Zealand World Cup when he invented a nasty story of being attacked by Kiwi locals. This set off a wave of apologies from New Zealand’s media and politicians, unnecessary regrets for an incident that never happened.
The salient question is why would a world class rugger in the prime of his career willingly move from top flight European competition into a significantly lower tier league?
He will compete in September’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. Then, he will report to RUNY for the 2020 season.