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Conrad Smith's Challenge To Dan Carter

By James Harrington
Conrad Smith

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The former All Blacks centre has challenged his old teammate to a bataille en français ahead of their Top 14 clash this weekend. James Harrington reports.

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Never mind the Autumn Internationals; forget the Irish win over the All Blacks and the Barbarians draw with the Springboks.
The most important battle in rugby right now is one of linguistic wits between former All Blacks teammates-turned-French club opponents Conrad Smith and Dan Carter.

Next weekend the Top 14 schedule sees Carter’s Racing 92 head south to face Smith’s Pau in the shadow of the Pyrenees, and the latter has issued his former international colleague a French challenge.

Last week, Pau (pronounced Poe, like the author; not Pow, like the 60s Batman punch) posted this video:

In it, Smith makes a pretty decent stab at the classic French tongue-twister: Un chasseur sachant chasser sait chasser sans son chien de chasse (go on, try it). For the record, it translates as: A hunter who knows how to hunt knows how to hunt without his hunting dog.

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So far, Carter has not responded – at least not in any way that has been caught on film. He has admitted in a recent interview that, despite taking twice-weekly lessons, his French is not as good as it perhaps could be because so many of his team-mates speak English.

He also revealed that it was sometimes a bit embarrassing speaking French, as no one could actually make out what he was trying to say:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAmcZHeMgLw

French lessons are par for the course for overseas players in French club rugby. Clubs set them up, and many rugbymen (as they’re known over here) take on extra tuition to get to grips with the fiendish intricacies of the language of Molière.

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Some apparently get a decent handle on the language. Former England and Toulon fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, for example, was always collared by French pitchside reporters for post-match interviews, and even now commonly features in adverts on French TV for a well-known banking and financial services company.

But, in the heat of the moment – say, for example, at halftime during a tight Top 14 play-off semifinal – even Wilkinson’s usually solid French deserted him.

It remains to be seen whether Carter will pick up the gauntlet thrown down by Smith, or if he prefers to do his talking on the pitch.

UPDATE: Dan Carter has responded to Conrad Smith’s challenge.

In a video posted to the Racing 92 Vimeo account he apologises (in English) for his non-attendance at the weekend’s game against Pau, before successfully reciting a different French tongue twister:

Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse sont-elles sèches? Archi-sèches!

Translation: Are the socks of the archduchess dry? They are extra dry.

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