Come and discover a summary of the career of one of France's greatest number 8s, Louis Picamoles.
Louis Picamoles, the tricolour oak tree
Just saying his name is enough to make the earth tremble and the stands quiver. And let's face it, so do a lot of his opponents. But there's nothing to be ashamed of, Louis Picamoles has measurements to make a plane tree pale: 1m92, 118 kilos. And with thighs as thick as tree trunks. While French rugby has produced three-lunged flankers with astonishing regularity, 'Pica' is probably unique in his field. He is a powerful, aggressive, massive player. His raids have become legendary and his charges spectacular.
Over the years, Picamoles has gradually broken down every defence in Europe. His percussion has made the world's greatest stadiums resound. His charges have sometimes won matches in their own right. The paradox is that despite the noise and fury his matches generate, he is a quiet man. A quiet man who took years to open up. It's as if he had to make peace with himself to be able to wage war on everyone else.
INTER / Young talent, new star
His career began but soon came to a halt in the Paris region. A teacher disgusted him with rugby, and he hung up his boots before even trying. Fortunately for him (and for French rugby), his family moved and he took up the oval again in Montpellier. Already oversized, he quickly caught the eye of MHR forwards coach Didier Nourault. Along with his mates Fulgence Ouedraogo, François Trinh-Duc, Julien Tomas, Jacques Boussuge and Joan Caudullo, he embodies the revival of Les Cistes. A breath of fresh air that took him all the way to the Top 14, and then to the blue jersey. His beginnings were in his image: a little timid, but frankly dominant. The French championship discovered a kid with a baby face, capable of knocking any defender on his arse. He wasn't even 20 when he made his mark in the top flight.
To reach the next level, he needs to win more than just duels. He headed for Toulouse, and his first successes. Each year, he wins the title: 2010, the European Cup, 2011 and 2012, the championship. Toulouse needed a ploughman, so they brought in the finest Percheron in French rugby. And although in 2011 he took part in the adventure of the XV de France but watched the final from the stands, the arrival of Philippe Saint-André at the helm of Les Bleus changed everything. Louis Picamoles is no longer a player in the French team, he is one of its bosses. His coach, Ugo Mola, describes him as "the best 8 in the world". An oval world that includes Duane Vermeulen, Kieran Read, Sergio Parisse and Jamie Heaslip. Is he better than all of them? It's impossible to answer. But asking the question is enough to get a sense of the boy's dimension. That of an international star.
INTER / The birth of King Louis, the new King of England
That's probably why, after the 2015 World Cup in England, the Toulouse native changed his tune. In search of a second wind and new challenges, he signed in England. To be closer to his grandfather and discover a new world, he headed for Northampton and the Saints. There, he became "King Louis". A symbolic coronation that he confirmed on the pitch. Sharper than ever, more dynamic than ever, he is marching on in the Premiership. Best forward in the 2017 championship, he spent two extraordinary seasons in the UK.
But his return to France was inevitable. Montpellier was the obvious choice, followed by Bordeaux for one last dance. At MHR, he won the last title of his career, the last one missing from his collection: the Challenge Cup. At Bordeaux, he experienced the final thrills of the finals.
INTER: Picamoles, the twilight of a giant
As the great chapter of his career draws to a close, what is there to remember? His power? Certainly. But to sum up his career solely in terms of his physical qualities would be a shameful shortcut. Louis Picamoles won over 4 coaches, played in 3 World Cups, won 82 caps and enjoyed a career spanning almost 18 years and just over 300 matches. Like the oak tree, Louis Picamoles has grown thicker over the years. And like the king of trees, he has become a symbol. The symbol of a relentless player who, thanks to his thick roots, has reached for the heavens.