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Raf talks rugby and Rugby Expo

In mid November a new rugby event comes to London – Rugby Expo! Find out more from event ambassador Raphael Ibanez

Rugby Expo aims to be the premier global business-to-business rugby convention. Rugby Expo 08 in London will be the largest ever gathering of business people involved in and interested in the world of rugby, including clubs, administrators, companies that support rugby and suppliers of services to the rugby community. Rugby Expo will be a festival celebrating and supporting the development of rugby as a truly global sport, offering wide-ranging and exciting business opportunities.

The key themes for the inaugural event are:

  • Professionalism - building closer links between rugby and business, with a shared commitment to success.
  • Grass Roots - attracting and nurturing talent, and supporting development of the game through the ranks.
  • Developing Nations - enabling growing rugby nations to establish viable financial structures, so rugby can develop as a genuinely global sport.

In the lead up to this groundbreaking event Wasps captain and Rugby Expo Ambassador Raphael Ibanez caught up with Rugby Expo and discussed all things Wasps, rugby and the future of the sport!

You can also click on the speaker icon below to hear from Raf post match at Adams Park following Wasps v Castres as well a looking ahead to the challenge of Leinster on Saturday.

How do you like being captain of London Wasps?
Yes it’s an incredible honour! For me, I had never imagined that in my career I would be captain of such a prestigious club, one of possibly the best clubs in Europe at the moment. So for me it’s a real responsibility, I must assume responsibility and do my best so that the club continues to win, as you know I am succeeding a legend of rugby, Lawrence Dallaglio, a great player and a great friend.

Is there a massive difference between being captain of France and captain of Wasps?
My speeches do not change, I’m not one to force speeches or force things to happen, it just comes naturally. If I have something to say to a player, French OR English, I am not fussed. The only difference that I have found is the amount of time available, i.e. with the French team, time was short where I needed to be very direct, very inventive as we had less time to prepare for a match; whereas as captain of a club, notably Wasps, there is a lot more time available to meet with players, to work together and it’s true that I really like this because there is a real communication role to be had with the players.

There really seems to be a team spirit here at Wasps?
Yeah, its embedded in the fabric of the club ! there are so many talented players, internationals but as soon as they push the door to the club, when the put the Wasps training jersey over their heads they know that they have a job to do as part of a team.

Apart from playing rugby, what would we be most likely to find you doing in your spare time?
I am lucky to live in a multi cultural town and there is so much more to discover. Sometimes it is hard because I just want to relax after a long training session. I am making an effort to uncover different aspects of culture here in London – museums, the different parts of London and also I am passionate, when the weather is nice, for certain more extreme sports such as going kayaking but also my passion since I was young is fly fishing. It is important from time to time for a player to leave the training life to one side; I talk to my team mates a lot but sometimes it is nice to speak with the trout too.

We heard that you were training the forwards and the academy teams here at Wasps, do you see yourself as a future coach?

Raf takes on the role of ambassador for Rugby Expo

Raf takes on the role of ambassador for Rugby Expo

I believe that to be coach you must have a desire to learn because as we know the best players do not always become the best coaches. Therefore I believe that first of all you must have that ambition to learn, which I think Wasps imbeds in its players. It’s another reason why I am at Wasps, a club which is so good that I can learn constantly. Last year I was working with the academy team and also helping with the scrum coaching for the first team. But this year as I am now captain the coaches decided for me that I should focus mainly on playing and being captain which is fine by me. It’s true that the desire to be coach is within me and I have a certain desire to share my experience. I have lived so many experiences, notably at international level. Every time you learnt a little bit more about yourself, and the others, therefore it’s a desire of mine to pass that on to the younger players. The big question is when? Where ? and that I don’t know yet.

What do you think about rugby at the moment both in an on field and off field capacity?
I believe that we are in a period of rapid evolution on a professional level, but it is mainly in a positive sense, we can notice that the media is more interested in our sport, there are more and more sponsors, the stadiums are bigger and fuller and the coverage of the results is better. We have a game with these new rules that must adapt, but the game is exciting and the players take pleasure because it is intense, its physical and technical; therefore its played at a high level.

For you, what is the difference in the atmosphere and the ethos that you might find in an English club compared to a French one ?
That’s quite a difficult question for me, even if I play rugby in England, I am however a French man and it is with great pleasure that I have noticed the professional structure that is coming in to our game ; I think the equilibrium between the two nations is extraordinary because it allows for such great games to take place between clubs. There is no longer a difference in structure that was evident between France and England a few years back. Now the big question would be in terms of physical preparation. There is a desire in the UK to do things short and sharp, whereas in France there is more emphasis on spending a lot of time on things.

How have you seen the development of commercialisation of rugby in the last 5 years – especially the money that has come into the game?
I believe rugby has succeeded in its transformation, transformation from simple amateur rugby which is where I began. I have gone from training twice a week to training twice a day. Also the fact that the sponsors have come in and been welcomed into our sport and not to mention the directors of the clubs who have a traditional tendency so it has broken these down and opened rugby to the business world which I believe is a positive step. The only main issue that has come of this is the playing calendar which has too many games because there is still not enough agreement between the federations and the clubs.

What importance would you put on an event like Rugby Expo in order to help develop the game globally ?
Rugby Expo, is an excellent idea! For that reason I was immediately seduced by the idea, the concept, and for that reason why I gave my agreement to become ambassador to this event. I believe it will be the voice of success for world rugby. To reunite all the important members of the rugby community, all the businesses interested in rugby and all the sponsors under one roof, it will create dialogue and a dynamic which will allow rugby to develop even more; therefore for that reason the idea is extraordinary and one has to question why this hasn’t been done before. It’s a great opportunity for the lesser known nations to put themselves on the Rugby Chequebook !

Captain Ibanez reflects on victory over Castres and the challenge of Leinster

Captain Ibanez reflects on victory over Castres and the challenge of Leinster

In terms of your home country, France, what benefits do you see for the clubs out there?
Rugby Expo will surely allow the clubs, even if they are well known and established in their region, to open their horizons and to have an outlook on what is actually going on elsewhere. We often hear criticism of rugby because the clubs have a tendency to be ‘King of their own region’ and in fact RugbyExpo is a chance to welcome experience gained by others in order to possibly integrate it into the development of their club.

From a commercial sense for the companies involved in Rugby Expo, what do you think they can gain from an event like this?
Its clearly a good opportunity for companies. The companies that will be there will be able to meet marketing directors for clubs and to propose their services and see if they can create a deal together. Sometimes whether it be due to lack of time or understanding the clubs often do not go looking for these companies.

Finally, your legendary Wasps car, is it still running ?
in the car park, it has become a sort of club icon as it has been kind of decorated. Everyone has signed the roof of the car – all the club members, so anyone from the chef to the head of rugby. We did it 2 days before the Heineken Cup final in 2007 which turned out to be a memorable match so at the end I decided to give the car to the club. Today its being used by the academy players who use it to learn the streets of London and I’m very proud as in a way it’s my present to this club.

For more information on Rugby Expo please visit