Robert Paparemborde

The Diamond

"I first met Robert when I went to see Jean-Pierre Rives, who I already knew, at his apartment in Paris. They were going out that night and Jean-Pierre said, ‘Say hello to Papa, he’s there in the spare bedroom.' I thought he meant his dad, but he was talking about Robert! On his bedside table, there was a copy of Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I thought, ‘Well, if someone of his stature and personality is reading that, he must be truly astonishing.' It was love at first sight." (Valerie Paparemborde)

Robert Paparamborde was one of those players who everyone knew. I don’t know whether it was his distinctive name or because of his playing ability, probably both, but I remember him vividly. He was born and brought up in Pau but played and coached the great RCP to victory in the French championship in 1990. Franck Mesnel described him as clever, like so many of the front row forwards. He told me, ‘We in the backs might sparkle, but the really clever ones play in the pack, like Robert, Sean Fitzpatrick and Brian Moore.' I tracked down Valérie, Robert’s lovely widow, via Elsa, his daughter who is a brilliant lawyer in Paris. I went to meet Valérie at her apartment to find out more about the man and the player. Having interviewed so many men for the book, it was wonderful to hear a female perspective!

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