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Clap de fin - L'éternel espoir

Publié le 2023-07-21

How hard it must be to be heralded as a future great player at just 15 years of age. Yet that's exactly what has weighed on Remi Lamerat's (solid) shoulders. His career path initially resembles a motorway to success: recruited by Toulouse at the age of 15, international under 16, under 17, under 18, under 19, under 20, upgraded with Toulouse before even reaching the age of majority.

The first tests

And if the path has been so linear and meteoric, it's because the young man has everything going for him. Solid (1.85 metres, over 100 kilos), explosive, fast and technical. He hasn't even played a minute of professional rugby and already he's being compared to Yannick Jauzion and Damien Traille.

But be warned: the weight of expectation is a tricky thing to bear. Especially for a kid. In 2008, when he was due to join the first team after the injuries to Clément Poitrenaud and Vincent Clerc, he too was injured. The first of many...

A new start at Castres

The following year, a comet crossed the skies of the Top 14. It had been expected for years, but its passage was to be meteoric. In three seasons with the Stade Toulousain, the centre only played around twenty matches. This was obviously due to the competition. But also a certain fragility, which led to a succession of injuries. So, after three lacklustre seasons, Lamerat left Toulouse. The journey wasn't too far: 85km. He headed for Castres, the club where he needed to make his mark.

But the misery continued: Remi Lamerat suffered two cruciate injuries in two years. And his first two seasons were blank. As the years went by, the prodigy was slow to establish himself at the top level. In fact, the first doubts even arose. Was Lamerat simply cut out for high-level rugby? The question remained, even when he finally made a comeback. After 5 seasons of not playing, or almost not playing, the road was no longer as clear-cut. Success might come his way, but not through the detours he took and the tortuous paths he followed. His time at Castres was punctuated by a title. A victory over Toulon, which he watched from the stands. Once again, injured. The turning point came the following year

There was little time to make up for lost time. But the Girondins' rocket was launched: he finally established himself at the centre of the attack, multiplying his charges and his runs. He played more games in one season than in his entire professional career. Lamerat took the league by storm and never looked back. In 9 months, he had experienced it all: the joy of being a full-time rugby player, the exhilaration of a Top 14 final (which he lost this time), the joy of selection.

The pinnacle: making his mark with "Les Bleus" and shining at club level

With Les Bleus, Lamerat had to earn his place against the likes of Fofana, Bastareaud, Fickou, Dumoulin, Mermoz, Danty, Vakatawa, David, Chavancy and Ntamack (who made his debut at centre with the French national team). And yet he gradually made his mark. Perhaps because with Castres, then Clermont, he played in four finals in six years. Probably because his profile as a powerful puncher, a big defender and a courageous player meant that he could be associated with almost any other player without detracting from his qualities. He is at the peak of his powers at almost 30 years of age, a far cry from the promise of his precociousness. But that doesn't matter. With ASM in 2017, he won a third French Championship title of his own, his first as a regular starter.

Rémi Lamerat should have been the best player of his generation. Yet when he hangs up his boots, the buffalo from Gironde will have no regrets. He was a French champion, an international, a starter at a World Cup and a fixture at almost every club he played for. A few nostalgic fans, or the curious few, will ask the fateful question: what if? And if Remi Lamerat had not suffered all those injuries, would he have been the greatest centre-half of all time? It's a question that will remain unanswered.

PIERRELARGEMAIN
PIERRELARGEMAIN
PIERRELARGEMAIN
PIERRELARGEMAIN
PIERRELARGEMAIN
PIERRELARGEMAIN
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Author

Pierre Largemain is what is sometimes called "a fundamentalist". Rugby? He's been playing, watching and talking about it for nearly 30 years. And sometimes he even dreams about it at night. Dreams full of skipped passes, split passes, disintegrating tackles and last-second drop kicks in the World Cup final. Pierre has agreed to share his most precious memories with us. And sometimes even to recount those of others.

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