After thirteen years of loyalty to the yellow and blue of Clermont, Morgan Parra donned the pink of Paris this summer. It will be one of the curiosities of the next season. However, the international scrum-half (33 years, 71 caps) has no intention of landing in the capital as a tourist. An insatiable competitor, he dreams of ending his career on a grand adventure. And in a corner of the head, the thought of going after one last title.
How is the recovery going at the Stade Français?
Good thing my family and I arrived a week after the end of the championship. For us, the goal was to settle in as quickly as possible, as there were quite a few changes. We went on vacation and I finally got back a week before the rerun. The welcome from my teammates was great, I’m forever discovering. I learn from each other both on and off the field.
What memories of Clermont have you packed in your suitcases?
Full, of course. The two shields, great moments lived on the “Michelin”… All this is part of my story and even part of my life, but I made the choice to discover something else after asking myself for a long time questions about to extend to Clermont. ASM entered a new phase of their project with a lot of changes, I think it was the right time to leave.
Once the decision is made, do you have any regrets?
None. If I had to do it again, I would do it again without hesitation. It was important to experience something different, and for me it was the last opportunity in my career. I couldn’t miss it. And as for the choice of the French stadium, there are no regrets either. I tried to see where I would be most useful, and Paris seemed to me to be the best place. The stadium has a competitive team fighting to regain its status.
In addition to your departure, there is Lopez’s and Fofana’s retirement. Are you measuring the shared path?
We all pass, you know. But it’s still better to leave a trail. I am lucky to have been French champion twice with ASM, to have lived through moments of madness and to leave a mark in the club’s history. But I’m not one to look back. This story is like with the French team: of course I would have liked to be in place of the youngsters who won the Grand Slam and to be able to experience a World Cup in France… Except I didn’t. no regrets. I move forward. This is my story.
What did Clermont miss last year to play in the playoffs?
Constancy. We didn’t know how to take our chance in important moments. We were simply not up to par in decisive games. in Perpignan, for example… We gave too many chances to other teams.
Why did you sign for Stade Français and not another club that might offer more sporting security?
I asked myself the question of living a completely different adventure, where I could bring something more to the collective. But I would also hear another discourse, find myself in a context where it would be up to me to adapt. Everything is new here: the logistics, the running of the club, the lifestyle. I am a bit in the shoes of a young person taking his first steps as a professional. I have no pretensions, I do not make big promises. I just want to try to see myself as best as possible in a club and bring my qualities. Today, Stade Français suits me more, in many ways.
You had explained your choice to come to Paris to bring more rigor. Can you expand?
I am not saying that there is no rigor at the Stade Français, far from it; it would be disrespectful to the work of Gonzalo Quesadas, Laurent Semperés, Julien Arias and the entire staff. But with experience I know that the small details are important. Here I am talking about the game itself. For young people, the details may not be important. But upon arrival, that’s what matters most. And only the players can adjust them, not the staff. I want to bring this dimension of demand to a young team that has less experience. You know, in thirteen years at Clermont I acquired a culture of rigor; it is true on and off the track, with the “Michelin” training. At certain times it was maybe too much… So if I’m going to be able to bring this rigor to Paris, I also come with the idea of finding a bit of madness there off the pitch.
You are in the same position as Arthur Coville, much younger. How do you rate this competition?
We are ten years apart, it really bothers me! (laughs) I was surprised to be the oldest in the group during the first training sessions… Already last season in Clermont it was true. But there are gaps of 10 or 12 years. That is strange! Whether it’s Arthur or James Hall, my aim is to work well with them, as with the rest of the players. The most important thing is that the team rotates. I am not here to teach them a lesson, but to discuss and share our desires. Arthur, James or even Joris (Segonds) are players with completely different registers, full of talent and essential to the team.
Was the presence of Gonzalo Quesada in Paris decisive for your choice?
I knew him as a goal coach, but not as a head coach. I have a lot of respect for him, we shared big moments and he had something to do with the success I had in the penalty shootout. He got me to make progress and he put a new routine into writing with my own bearings. I remember changing my “t-shirt” thanks to him. Since then I have never changed.
Chance of the calendar means you face Clermont on the first day…
The first game is against Clermont, but it will be played above all in Paris. I would have preferred us to move there, to have a little less stress at the start of the game. It will still be a strange moment! But I’m not going to the wrong club, I’m going to fight for Stade Français.
A word about the French team, which is running at full speed, with many talented scrum-halves. Would you say Lucu comes closest to your playstyle, behind Dupont electrifying everything?
Dupont, there is only one in the world. You can tell me there are “Dupont styles”, OK. But there is only one such player. I don’t like to compare, I just notice that we have quality. Couilloud is there; Garrec arrives right behind; “Old” guys like Serin or Lucu have great qualities. But we are also well supplied in the other positions. We have everything to win the World Cup.
The French Barbarians have returned from a mini-tour in the United States. Does the Baa-Baas spirit appeal to you?
Of course ! It is a special state of mind, the pleasure of the game and the pleasure outside. There are no headaches. I appreciate and if I have the chance to be called one day it will be with pleasure!
How do you rate the development of the scrum-half position since your professional debut in 2006?
I started at eighteen; watching some of my first matches I realize it’s not the same rugby at all! And my position has developed in all areas. Before it was just necessary that n ° 9 mouth behind his pack forward. Today he has to be good on foot, make good passes, carry the ball, control the game… Today’s rugby is more perfectionist, more demanding on the physical and psychological dimensions. Before, four clubs claimed Brennus and today there are ten. The players train more and more, the staffs are strengthened and there is data. Everything is analyzed to go faster and stronger. This is the point of the story. Before we again kicked the ball as far as possible; now there is the choice between a thousand camp excursions, a thousand foot games. Teams adapt all the time.
Could you have changed your player profile?
No, I think not. I don’t have the physical attributes for it. Each scrum half is different, with some similarities, but always with differences.
Do you think No.9 profiles like you or Connor Murray are under threat today?
Above all, I hope rugby will keep us going for another two years! (laughs) If so, I will sign immediately. So much the better if my style still matches. If this is no longer the case, it will not be my responsibility.
With the French stadium, you will play in South Africa for the Challenge Cup. What do you think about the arrival of South African teams to the European Cups?
I have to be honest: it is a great experience for the players who have to face these franchises, but for me it is no longer called the Champions Cup. Before it was the European Cup, also with real meaning and history. I have nothing against the southern hemisphere, but today it is no longer the European Cup. Let it be called something else and say that the European Cup no longer exists. And it’s the same for the Challenge Cup, it no longer exists. For me, the two competitions should not be played with South African clubs.
Why have you never been tempted to go to the southern hemisphere for a different experience?
I asked myself the question at the end of my contract in Clermont, but I was not ready to leave for now with the family; I have to stay here to find my balance and feel good every weekend. By leaving there, you reset everything. It’s a lifestyle choice. I did another by weighing in rugby but also in the other components.
You are co-chairman of the Metz club. Why did you embark on this adventure?
The club was a bit run down and the former president asked me if he could count on me to stimulate something new. I played many years there, my father and my uncle played for Metz. It remains the club of my heart. I told myself that many children would like the chance to live an adventure like I was able to do by going to Dijon, Bourgoin, Clermont and then Paris. It was important that the club did not descend from Fédérale 2. Even from a distance, I felt that I could bring something. We tried to put training back at the heart of the project, to cooperate with the surrounding clubs and to ensure that Metz runs well and stays in Federal 2. The goal is not to have the goal of climbing to Federal 1 , or in Pro D2 . We want to focus this club on its young people: let some leave to aim higher and those who remain to continue playing at a good level.
Already in Clermont you intervened against the amateur clubs in the surroundings…
I like this. The guys I could train are bricklayers by day and come to play rugby in the evening. It is the sport I knew with my father and my uncle. That’s the one I appreciate.
You said you had no regrets. But if you could change one outcome, what would it be?
To become European champion in 2013 with ASM. When you’re young, you watch on TV the big teams that lift the Brennus Shield and the European Cup. Me, I saw Brive and Toulouse so I wanted to be among them… We came so close that year… This final maybe forged me a little more and made me grow as well.
What first piece of advice would you give to Morgan Parra starting her career today?
Keep the concept of enjoyment which is the foundation of this sport. Rugby allowed me to live my passion, to make a good living, to do so many things outside. It has no price.