Former Ireland international Robin Copeland has revealed that playing in the French second division is often just as mad as it is sometimes portrayed.
The ProD2 has a somewhat notorious reputation as it has become known for mass brawls, poor discipline and even for an incident where a player lifted up a referee in celebration.
The 33-year-old joined French second division club Soyaux Angoulême at the start of the season and has already experienced his fair share of madness, despite playing for his new club for less than a year.
Copeland was speaking at the launch of the Big Rugby Run hosted by Tackle Your Feelings, and gave an insight into what life is like playing rugby in the ProD2.
Le joueur Josaia Raisuqe célèbre la victoire en mode “Roi Lion” en soulevant l’arbitre du match 😅🦁
Une célébration sanctionnée d’un carton rouge 🟥 pic.twitter.com/acpsQdRFnT
— Rugby PRO D2 (@rugbyprod2) January 8, 2021
Copeland: ‘One of our guys headbutted someone a minute into the game.’
“I have had way too much experience of [the madness]. Every game for the first 15 games there was at least one or two yellows and a red,” Copeland explained.
“They have this system where if a player gets three yellow cards in a season they get a two week’s ban. They’re just throwing out yellow cards left, right and centre hoping that will solve things but it doesn’t really.
“One of our guys headbutted a guy one minute into the game and he got red carded and sent off. I’ve seen guys spit at the referee, just stupid shit.
“I’ve seen players say, ‘You’re the worst referee in the league and this is why you’ll never [officiate] at a higher level’.
“There’s no respect and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, what are you doing? Stop! Have you never played rugby before? You do not speak to referees like that.’
“But that’s just the French. ‘I do what I want. I don’t care. If he’s an asshole I tell him he’s an asshole’.
“So I’ve definitely seen a lot of that and some players are just hot headed and passionate. Even playing cards with players, you’d see the way they slam things down. They’re just a passionate people.
“It’s hard to get that streak out of them and I don’t think anybody would want to get that streak out of them.”
Adapting to the notorious French second division.
Copeland has spent time in the English Championship with Plymouth Albion and Rotherham Titans, the Pro14 with Cardiff Blues, Munster and Connacht and has also played international rugby for Ireland.
Despite his experiences across five different clubs in three different countries before moving to France, Copeland believes nothing quite compares to the “mixed bag” that is the ProD2.
While there are certainly some downsides to the erratic nature of the league, the Irishman also said that there was plenty to enjoy about the environment of the ProD2.
#TheBigRugbyRun 2021 is on! From 10am on Sat 22nd May. All funds raised going to the @TYFIreland campaign & their initiatives to be rolled out to participating Irish rugby clubs later in 2022. For more info, head to https://t.co/hBBdUT0XZH #thebigrugbyrun2021 #takecontrol pic.twitter.com/cxiw4bCvIf
— #TheBigRugbyRun (@TheBigRugbyRun) April 29, 2021
“It depends on the day. It is [enjoyable] in a sense because there are so many different characters. A player’s strength can be his undoing at times,” Copeland said.
“A player’s passion or spark to try something out of nothing can be like, ‘Oh my god, that was unbelievable.’
“But it can also be like, ‘What the hell was he thinking?’ So it’s a mixed bag but I suppose you’ve just got to let players express themselves.
“In Ireland… there’s a certain way of doing everything and there’s a right and a wrong way of doing everything whereas here it’s like, ‘Just try and if it doesn’t work we’ll try something else’.”