Opinion

Jean-Pierre Rives, The French Legend Of Rugby

Jean-Pierre Rives is a legendary figure in French rugby, standing head and shoulders above most of his countrymen as one of the real cult heroes of European rugby. I am
01 Nov 2015 10:30
Jean-Pierre Rives, The French Legend Of Rugby
Jean Pierre RIVES - Rugby - France / Galles - 1979 - Archives - largeur attitude

Jean-Pierre Rives is a legendary figure in French rugby, standing head and shoulders above most of his countrymen as one of the real cult heroes of European rugby.

I am sure a lot of the readers would not recognise this name in our part of the world but in the Northern hemisphere and especially in Europe, Jean-Pierre Rives’ name still brings chills to those who witnessed his hard, courageous and uncompromising style of rugby.

Born on December 31, 1952 in Toulouse, France, his father was a pilot and an avid tennis player, and he encouraged his son, who excelled in athletics at an early age, to pursue tennis, but it was rugby that would consume Jean-Pierre Rives.

Rives began playing rugby for his hometown club in 1974, but was told by selectors that he was too small to play his favourite position of flanker as his height about of five feet nine inches and weighing around 85 kilos would be too small for such a physical position on the field.

This only fuelled Rives’ desire to succeed and by the following year in 1975, after an outstanding season, the selectors had no choice but to include the young 22-year-old blonde in the French national side.

This was the beginning of a legendary career that took him to the top of the rugby world. By the time he was 26, Jean-Pierre Rives was caption of the French side and he would always be found with blood splattered across his face and in the thick of things as he heroically battled his way upfield for his beloved country.

He was dubbed the golden helmet by commentators because of his long and wild blond hair which cascaded over his face during matches.

Rives played a total of 59 tests for France and captained the team in 34 of those games; this was a world record at that time. He also captained the first French side to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand and was elected France’s Player of the Year in 1977, 1979 and 1981.

Rives’ rugby career ended after a succession of shoulder injuries in 1984. His final match for France came in that year’s Five Nations Championship against Scotland.

Famous Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman summed it up perfectly when he said of Jean-Pierre Rives, “I was pretty obsessed with rugby player Jean-Pierre Rives. He was a small French guy on the field, but he was as tough as nails and he finished every game with blood on his face.”

Once Rives’ rugby career ended he went on to become a prolific artist and is renowned for his sculpture work in the art world, his works can be found in various parts of the world and are sought after for public and private viewing.

He has a been given many awards and medals from the French Government for his outstanding contribution to sport and even had a massive 272,000 square feet Sports Complex named after him in Paris.

Shunning the big cities and preferring the quiet life Jean-Pierre is married and has two sons, Jasper and Kino-Jean.

He now lives in the South of France where he and his family live in a wooden home that resembles a tree house. The property is positioned near a local golf course and includes a vast garden, with a bamboo grove, mimosa bushes, and lemon and fig trees.

Jean-Pierre Rives has transformed himself from the raging and uncontrollable rugby force that we may never see again on the field, to a calm and tranquil soul who loves nature and solitude where he can paint and sculpt in peace.

 The writer is a Fiji Sun columnist.

Feedbackajay@carvingdream.com

 

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