Romain Sazy has experienced it all with La Rochelle. Downhill, ProD2, back up, maintenance, explosion and titles. And if truth be told, the second row's career has been something of a fairytale. Or more accurately, a legend. That of a 'normal' player who manages to impose himself at the highest level. A little lad from ProD2 who, by dint of hard work, came to rub shoulders with the stars of the world. The courageous soldier who became captain of one of the best teams on the continent.
From Montauban to La Rochelle: A duty player
In fact, no, this is neither a princess story nor a fantasy tale. Romain Sazy's career is more than that: it's a miracle. For a start, he's not from La Rochelle. Over time, he has become more yellow and black than all the others. But he is from Montauban. That rugby land in the heart of the Tarn et Garonne. And when he arrived in Charente-Maritime in 2010, he was labelled a duty player. He's a stalwart, capable of playing second or third row, who loves a challenge and a fight. In fact, he even has a reputation for being a bit of a pain. He lays down the law in the rucks and is sometimes a vigilante. But he doesn't really have the image of a star in the making. And the only star he has is his nickname, 'the Sheriff of the Atlantic'.
Captain and undisputed leader of the Rochelais pack
However, along with coach Patrice Collazo, he has established himself as an essential member of the Rochelais pack. A captain on the touchline and a leader in battle, he is one of those players who always gives 100%. And despite the club's express growth crisis, he still manages to raise his game. It's almost as if the little guy was made to play at the top level of the world... Whether paired with Qovu, Jolmes, Lavault, Lagrange, Tanguy or Eaton, he is always indispensable. Romain Sazy, who is sometimes shifted to the 3rd row to add even more weight to the front 8, has become indestructible.
Key moments in Romain Sazy's career
But frankly, despite his talent and his ability to be present no matter what the level of the opponent, who could have imagined such a destiny. First in the regular phase with Stade Rochelais in 2016-2017, called up to the Barbarians in the same year to take on South Africa, European Challenge finalist in 2018-2019, Top 14 finalist and European Cup finalist in 2021... The Sheriff of the Atlantic needs almost nothing to add his name to the club's pantheon. And if the story was already magnificent, it is magnified by the final years of his career. Firstly, in 2022, when La Rochelle faced the best in Europe, Leinster, and won their first final in Marseille. Romain Sazy was and will remain the first player from the club to lift a major trophy. A title by way of appetiser, European Rugby Champion. A success that will be followed by many more. In the meantime, Sazy is celebrating a second tour with the 'Baabas', of which he is captain once again.
The long-awaited farewell: A hero adulated by the town
In the end, it didn't take much for the ending to be as beautiful as the rest. In 2023, Romain Sazy turned 36. A more than honourable age for a duty player. Then came the time for farewells. The ones nobody wanted to see coming. Time flies when you love. And the fans adore him. His sense of sacrifice, his face, his words: Romain Sazy has been adopted by the town and its supporters. Along with Levani Botia and Uini Atonio, he is one of those who have known it all. Those who played for Stade Rochelais, when it was still "Atlantique". Those who fought with Narbonne, Mont-de-Marsan and Pau to climb to the top flight. So when it comes to his second European final and his second national final, you start dreaming of a happy ending. But his farewell was only half perfect. Against Leinster again, Sazy and his men fought a heroic battle. Trailing by almost 20 points after twenty minutes, La Rochelle came back into the match, levelled the score and overturned the Irish monster. Faced with 13 Irish players in the heart of Aviva Stadium, it was a miracle! And then some.
The last one. For against Toulouse in the Top 14 final, fate chose its side. Just as La Rochelle were placing one hand and four fingers on the Brennus Shield, a feat by Romain Ntamack put an end to the dream of an entire club. Romain Sazy will not be the first La Rochelle player to lift the shield.
La Rochelle's heartfelt tribute to Romain Sazy
The second row will have some consolation, however. Firstly, because the fans and the town of La Rochelle paid him a heartfelt tribute, adapting the usual chants and transforming the words into "Sazy, Sazy, c'est La Rochelle". And because he will remain the only sheriff who can claim to have won two stars.