Arsène Wenger has declared his love for rugby after swapping tips with France’s World Cup squad.
The Arsenal manager dined with Philippe Saint-André and France’s players near their base in Croydon on Monday before many of Les Bleus visited London Colney to watch Wenger’s footballers train on Friday.
“I love rugby,” said Wenger, adding that it has become his favourite sport after football. “Before, it was basketball. I played basketball so I know it a bit better but I like in rugby that kind of true solidarity. If you want to play, you have first to be together. The very essence of collective sport can be found in rugby. In rugby, without solidarity you have no chance. They have solidarity and courage, I admire the fact that men are ready to go into combat together, put their trust in each other.”
Wenger defended footballers against suggestions that they seem less combat ready. “Football has a reputation for softness that is not true. They are hit hard in rugby and you are frightened sometimes, but in football it is very painful to be kicked in the ankle. There are a lot of kicks that hurt. It is not that they are soft, it is different pains.”
Wenger said he hopes to get to a stadium to watch France in one of their knockout matches during the World Cup, adding – without saying whether his own Champions League experience had informed his opinion – that it is important for France to win Pool D. “They have to finish first in the group because they play Ireland and Ireland for me is a very good team.”
Wenger said that when he met Saint-André on Monday, they discussed how rugby seems to be developing in a way similar to football. “We chatted mostly about the problems of modern rugby because it’s kind of following the same trajectory as football did. It’s gone from being amateur to professional on an international scale and that has brought all sorts of issues, such as the question of financial resources, the little tugs-of-war that may arise between clubs and countries, organisational differences between various rugby countries which means that different countries have different criteria for calling up players. I’ve experienced a lot of those problems too.”
Asked what position he would have played in if he had been a rugby player, Wenger said: “Winger, to dribble and score.”
Source: The Guardian