The Top 14 and the death of l’esprit de clocher

first_imgSpirits in the night: Grenoble celebrate defeating Toulouse away from home, 25-22 Saint-Andre drew on his own experience coaching Bourgoin from 2002 to 2004 to illustrate his point. “When I was there about 60% of the squad came from Bourgoin,” he told me. “At home the players were playing in front of their friends and family. They knew most of the spectators and knew they were playing for the honour of Bourgoin. It was as if they were ready to die for the town.”I knew what he meant. At the time of our interview I was playing for a club on the outskirts of Montpellier and the games I feared most were the ones that took me into the charming Languedoc countryside. Here the locals regarded us as city slickers to be slaughtered. The entire village would turn out, encircling the pitch and creating atmospheres ranging from the intimidating to the incendiary. In such a white-hot cauldron of emotion the home team would do whatever it took to win – even if it included gouging, stamping and butting. Meet that same side away, however, and they would often go down without so much as a whimper.Back in the day: Bourgoin were in the top flight when Philippe Saint-Andre was in chargeBourgoin were in the top-flight of French rugby when Philippe Saint-Andre was in charge. Ten years on and no club in the Top 14 is able to boast that 60% of its players are homegrown. Instead of local lads there are outsiders – Bothas, McAlisters, Roberts and Nalagas – players who have no concept of l’esprit de clocher. There’s a revolution underway in French rugby, one that is having ramifications for the home nations. We’ve already seen evidence of it in October when Toulon, Toulouse and Racing Metro all won away in the European Champions Cup. Three victories on the road for French clubs and we’re only two rounds into the tournament. Contrast that to the 2007-8 Heineken Cup season when the six French clubs managed only four victories in 18 away matches – and none against an English or Irish club.This weekend Racing Metro will fancy their chances of returning from the Ospreys with a win, while Toulon will travel to stuttering Leicester Tigers with a confidence that Clermont might find hard to muster as they head to Munster.But win or lose at Thomond Park, Clermont will put up more of a fight than some French clubs in the past. The Heineken Cup has witnessed many a dismal French surrender on foreign soil, from Toulouse capitulating 77-17 to Wasps in 1996 to Leinster’s 50-point drubbing of Bourgoin in 2005 to Northampton Saints’ 34-0 shellacking of Perpignan in January 2010, who at the time were champions of France.It used to be a similar story in the Top 14. The likes of Toulouse, Stade Francais, Biarritz and Clermont – the powerhouses of French rugby a few years ago – would often have the wherewithal to win away, but few of the so-called smaller clubs would ever steal a victory l’extérieur.Brive with me: Brive took it to Montpellier last monthThat mindset is fast disappearing. The Top 14 hasn’t even reached the halfway mark of the season and already there have been startling results on the road, none more so than Grenoble’s 25-22 stoppage time victory at Toulouse on Saturday. Add Oyonnax’s triumph at Racing, Brive’s 25-10 thumping of Montpellier and, in a troubled season for the Mediterranean outfit, their  own win at Clermont, and a picture emerges of a league where sides now hit the road believing they can win.What’s brought about this change in philosophy? Simple. Money. A decade ago the majority of players and coaches in the Top 14 were French. There were some great talent but it had been reared on l’esprit de clocher [literally, ‘the spirit of the bell tower’ but also a euphemism for parochialism]. A few years ago I discussed this ‘spirit’ with Philippe Saint-Andre, at the time director of rugby at Sale Sharks. “Even in the professional era there is still a ‘win at home, lose away’ mentality in French rugby,” explained PSA. “You could call it l’esprit de clocher.’” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS They are highly paid – but more significantly – highly-motivated men who want to win every game they play. Some call them mercenaries, a silly and emotive word that means what exactly? According to the Oxford English dictionary a mercenary is someone “motivated primarily by the desire for gain”.That sounds about right, a desire for gaining the win, home and away. Here’s to professional pride and the death of the  l’esprit de clocher.last_img read more

Presidential fund to launch on Africa-focused STEM research

first_img Read Full Story Harvard University announces a new gift from South Africa’s Motsepe Foundation, which will launch the Motsepe Presidential Research Accelerator Fund for Africa to advance groundbreaking research on key issues impacting the continent.This gift will support faculty-led and student-driven science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research across Harvard’s Schools, exploring questions of crucial importance to the region. The Motsepe Foundation’s gift will significantly enhance Harvard’s contributions to the continent and strengthen the University’s relationship with Africa.“At a time when leveraging Harvard University’s intellectual community for global benefit is more critical than ever, we are eager to accelerate the discovery, dissemination, and impact of vital research in and around Africa,” said University President Larry Bacow. “We are grateful for the generous donation from Patrice and Precious Motsepe, which enables Harvard to strengthen its work addressing key challenges and opportunities facing the continent.”“As the momentum of transformation in Africa continues to advance, research focused on science, technology, and innovation is crucial”, added Wafaie Fawzi, interim Oppenheimer Faculty Director of Harvard’s Center for African Studies. “The Motsepe Fund is a wonderful opportunity to increase and deepen impactful research about Africa and foster collaboration between Harvard affiliates and our partners on the continent.”The application portal will open to faculty on Oct. 1, 2020, and is intended to support faculty-led research projects that focus on advancing key challenges and opportunities facing Africa, including emerging technologies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution; climate change and its effect on health, agriculture, water, and sanitation; renewable energy and its benefit to infrastructure and society; health; aging; materials science, and the governance and policies needed for an entrepreneurial economy.The Office of the Vice Provost for Research will oversee the fund with collaboration from the Center for African Studies. Vice Provost for Research Richard McCullough said: “Further expanding Harvard’s research portfolio in Africa is a top priority for the University. This fund offers critical support to those already working in these areas and an exciting opportunity for our faculty and students to forge new collaborations and develop novel research focused on the region.”Founded in 1999 by Patrice Motsepe and Precious Moloi-Motsepe, the Motsepe Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for all, including unemployed people, women, youth, workers, and marginalized communities in South Africa, Africa, and globally. The foundation believes that building strong partnerships and collaboration is the only way to enable change and drive transformation, and accordingly it has a regional, continental, and global footprint through collaborations with partners around the world.last_img read more

Team theme garden

first_imgBy Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaChris Brannon and three of his friends spent four hoursspray-painting a huge University of Georgia “G” on the front lawnof the UGA campus in Griffin, Ga. No, they aren’t vandals.They’re members of the campus’s landscape crew.They put the landscape art there to make a point, and it’sworking.”People know us as the Georgia Experiment Station but many peopledon’t realize we’re part of the University of Georgia,” saidWayne Crawford, head of the campus landscape crew. “Now peopleare making the connection, and they love the ‘G.'”The crew cut the 75-foot-high and 50-foot-wide “G” into the grasswith an edger, then mowed the grass low and painted it red.”We’ve had the ‘G’ cut into the grass for a while now but it’snever been red,” Crawford said. “With it being football season,we decided it was time to brighten it up.”The paint is athletic field turf paint specially blended to matchthe true UGA red color.Don’t try this at homeUGA turf specialist Clint Waltz doesn’t recommend fansduplicating the process at home.”Buying athletic field turf paint would be an expensive venturefor most homeowners,” Waltz said. “And you’d need to reapply thepaint every 14 to 21 days to maintain a fresh, nonfadedappearance.”Before you start a project like this, he said, consider what itdoes to the turf.”Turf isn’t meant to be painted long-term,” he said. “The turfstand can become weakened because the plant’s natural metabolicprocesses are being blocked.”Waltz said you could use the paint as a temporary colorant ondormant turf with fewer harmful effects.You can also support your favorite team, whether they’re Bulldogsor Yellow Jackets, by creating a team flower garden. Use pansies to create team garden”Pansies are a great plant to use to create a garden showing yourteam support,” said Bodie Pennisi, an Extension Servicehorticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural andEnvironmental Sciences.”Pansies come in red, purple, blue, apricot, lavender, white,yellow, pink, bronze and mahogany colors,” she said. “Thanks tothe new Halloween varieties, they come in orange and black, too.”To create your team garden at home, select an area on a slope ifyou can. “Using a sloped area will allow you to see your creationbetter from a distance,” Pennisi said.Mark a circle on the ground with ordinary spray paint. Next, tillthe circle using a rotary tiller and remove all the grass. Placeamended soil inside the circle to create a raised bed 4 to 6inches high. Then mark the outline of your team symbol inside thecircle using the handle of your shovel.If you’re creating a “G,” Pennisi said, fill it in with redpansies first. Plant them a bit closer together than you normallywould.Finish your creation by filling in the remainder of your circlewith either white or black pansies.”This flower garden can be created as a show of support to anysports team,” she said. “Just as long as you have an easilyrecognizable symbol and one you can draw.”Pennisi said pansies are perfect because they come in so manycolors and grow close to the ground. They’re a good choice forfall planting, too, because they perform well in cool weather.”You can plant them now and they’ll provide fall flowers andspring color,” she said.No matter which plant you choose for your team garden, smaller isbetter.”If you use large plants like they do in the football stadiums,you have to have a large area,” Pennisi said. “And you’ll belooking at a lot of maintenance to make sure the plants look good… so you’d better be a really devoted fan.”last_img read more