"David, I tell you, there was never any violent play in our local derby against Biarritz. Of course it was hard and uncompromising but I considered players like Pascal, Serge and Jean Condom as my brothers. And brothers can fight but it was never dirty. Compare that to playing against Beziers when you could take a kick to the head at any point. That never happened in a Basque derby. If anyone got involved in dirty play, they were banished by the family. After the games, we would all party and sing together until the early hours. The bus always went home empty of players, with only the President and medical man on board!"
I had struggled to get hold of Pierre probably because he didn’t trust the English telephone number which was appearing on his phone each time I called or texted him. I couldn’t blame him. He had spent much of the 1980s tormenting the English, twisting and torturing his adversaries in the front row, so why on earth would an Englishman want to speak to him, or vice versa?
I asked his great mate and fellow Basque, Pascal Ondarts, whose generosity towards me, an unknown Englishman, knew no bounds, to help facilitate an intro. It worked. Pierre called me back but was off on a cycling trip to Spain so I couldn’t see him this time. Ah well, I smiled, I’ll have to come back to the Basque Country for a third trip. The desire was strong and the logistics simple; it was just a question of seeking yet more approval from my patient wife that worried me… but only marginally. I trusted my powers of persuasion to convince her.
I planned to meet Pierre on Saturday 9th June, and was due to take the train or plane from Paris to Biarritz on the evening of the 8th. This was before I received an invitation that I couldn’t refuse from my great friend Bertrand Baret: ‘David, 8pm Friday 8th June, dinner with Hugo Desnoyer, our place in Paris’. Those who know me know that I can resist everything but temptation, and this was irresistible. My trip to meet Doxpi would have to wait.
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