"What is rugby? You need love in your heart and a kick in the head. There are a few different ways to lead men – you can be alongside them and love them and they follow, or you can be authoritarian. We, the French, need love. You have to love each other to take punches and protect your team mates. We are tender and tactile because we are Latin and emotional, and we need these emotions to go to war. We close our eyes, think of France and consider it war. You are different. It has always worked like that and it couldn’t work another way."
I was having breakfast at home in Winchester on Tuesday 17th October 2017 when my mobile rang showing a French telephone number. I answered in French:
"David, bonjour, c’est Jean-Pierre Rives."
His name and voice sent my adrenaline pumping and heart racing. The great Jean-Pierre Rives had called me. I had sent him a comprehensive email about the book on the Monday evening asking him to participate and he had responded immediately, and in the most personable way possible.
In spite of his quick response, it took a few calls before we arranged a time to meet.
"David, I am in Biarritz, call me back later this week."
"David, I can’t do Wednesday to Friday because I am away."
"David, I can do Wednesday to Friday because I am here."
"David, I have such a bad memory that I can’t remember whether I ever had one."
As I discovered when I met him, his immediate response was the mark of the man, a fabulous human being, a homme-of-the-people, whose warm, self-effacing and humorous, chatty style belies the steely determination and desire to win. Without those, he would never have been the player he was, and in my experience, a person never loses those instincts, whatever their age. I spent a wonderful day with him and his family laughing and chatting about art, rugby, friends and life.
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