To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the FIRA-Association Européenne de Rugby, a star-studded French Barbarians side took on a Europe XV before a crowd of 10,500 in Brussels on Saturday.
One of the International Rugby Board's Regional Associations, FIRA-AER has done so much over the years to grow the Game of Rugby across the region and currently has 43 members.
The names on the Barbarians team sheet at the Stade du Roi Baudouin in the Belgian capital included the likes of past and present French internationals Dimitri Yachvili, Jérôme Thion, Sébastien Bruno and Julien Peyrelongue in a side brimming with experience.
There was no shortage of talent either in the Europe XV side with players drawn from Portugal, Georgia, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Romania.
Coached by Portugal national coach Tomaz Morais and Thomas Putra of Poland, the Europe XV included in their ranks the likes of Romania's Sorin Socol, Gonçalo Uva of Portugal, former England wing Phil Christophers and Spain's Cesar Sempere.
On a day of celebration in the Belgian capital, the match was played in true accordance with the Spirit of the Game, with friendship and entertainment the flavour of the day.
Depth of talent
The result, for the record, was a 39-26 victory to the French Barbarians, but on a day of celebration and promotion, the scoreline hardly mattered as the teams produced some breathtaking Rugby to entertain the crowd.
There were tries aplenty, with liberal doses of showboating, but the match will have gone a long way to further the promotion of the Game in Belgium and across Europe.
FIRA-AER Chairman Jean-Claude Baqué said that while the occasion was all about celebrating the association's achievements, it was also a prime opportunity to highlight the advances that have been made in the Region over the decades.
"The Unions in Europe under the FIRA-AER umbrella have all worked together for 75 years in order to develop and promote the game of Rugby and to help new federations to structure themselves.
"The match represented a wonderful opportunity to show the very high level that players from these so called emerging nations play at. It also highlighted the depth of talent within the European Nations Cup.
"It was a great and historic day."
French Barbarians: 1. Arnauld Tchougong (CS Bourgoin Jallieu) 2. Sébastien Bruno (RC Toulon) 3. Danie Thiart (Montpellier RC) 4. Jérôme Thion (Biarritz Olympique) 5. Christophe Samson (ASM Clermont) 6. Mathieu Lievremont (US Dax) 7. Grégory Le Corvec (USA Perpignan) 8. Vincent Clément (SC Albi) 9. Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz Olympique, captain) 10. Julien Peyrelongue (Biarritz Olympique) 11. Marc Andreu (Castres Olympique) 12. Pierre-Manuel Garcia (Castres Olympique) 13. Karmichael Hunt (Biarritz Olympique) 14. Farid Sid (USA Perpignan) 15. Jérôme Porical (USA Perpignan).
Replacements: 16. Mathieu Blin (Stade Français Paris) 17. Aretz Iguiniz (Aviron Bayonnais) 18. Ludovic Michaux (Castres Olympique) 19. Julien Frier (CS Bourgoin Jallieu) 20. Romain Teulet (Castres Olympique)
21. Rida Jaouher (Montauban TG) 22. Jean-Baptiste Peyras (Aviron Bayonnais) 23. Denis Avril (Aviron Bayonnais).
Europe XV: 1. Olivier Tissot (Montpellier RC) 2. Joan Caudullo (Montpellier RC) 3. Vincent Debaty (ASM Clermont) 4. Sorin Socol (Oloron) 5. Goncalo Uva (GD Direito) 6. Matthew Clarkin (Montauban TG), Capitaine 7. Magnus Lund (Biarritz Olympique) 8. Robert Mohr (Stade Rochelais) 9. Pablo Feijoo (CRC Madrid) 10. Nicolas Laharrague (USA Perpignan) 11. Sepp Visser (Newcastle) 12. Philip Christophers (Castres Olympique) 13. Miguel Portela (GD Direito, Portugal) 14. Samuele Pace (Viadana) 15. David Chartier (Aviron Bayonnais).
Replacements: 16. Rémy Bonfils (Stade Français Paris) 17. Bastien Sipielski (Marmande) 18. Juan Murre (FC Auch) 19. Mathieu Verschelden (ASUB Waterloo) 20. Luis Pissarra (Agronomia) 21. Tiberius Dimofte (Bucarest) 22. César Sempere (CRC Madrid) 23. Pierre Hendrickx (Boitsfort).
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