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'I felt like a hooligan surrounded by 17 police officers'

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

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Guy Noves has recalled the extraordinary moment when he left feeling like a hooligan at Murrayfield in the aftermath of the 2005 Heineken European Cup win by Toulouse who had beaten Stade Francais in the final in Edinburgh. The veteran coach was taken into police custody following a pitch-side scuffle and it was while in jail in the bowels of the stadium that he vowed to win the cup again with the French club. 

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This he did five years later, Toulouse defeating Biarritz in the 2010 final in Paris to allow Noves a far more enjoyable post-game celebration. The now 68-year-old ended his 22-year stint with the club in 2015 when he agreed to become coach of the France national team in succession to Philippe Saint-Andre.  

That Test level coaching job was cut short in 2017, however, bringing an abrupt end to Noves’ lengthy career in the game. Now, ahead of this Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final which sees reigning champions Toulouse travel to Dublin to play Munster, Noves has been reflecting on his time in rugby in a lengthy interview with Midi Olympique

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Included were his reflections on the madcap situation that unfolded in the immediate aftermath of what at the time was Toulouse’s third European title win. “I finished the match surrounded by 17 police officers,” said Noves, who went on to explain what had unfolded from his perspective.

“At the end of the match, I crossed the athletics track to embrace my family in the stands when I saw, a little further in the bays, Michel Lamolinairie, a club manager and above all, a close friend. 

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“I tried to bring him onto the pitch because he had spent the whole season by our side: he was there at all training sessions, made all the trips… the stewards did not understand, there was a scuffle and frankly, I no longer know what became of the stewards… still, very quickly, I found myself surrounded by 17 police officers. They put me in jail in the bowels of the stadium. I felt like a hooligan.”

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How did it end? “The mayor of Toulouse [Jean-Luc Moudenc] and a few other personalities came to pick me up. But I didn’t see the players lift the cup… so, in my jail, I swore to myself to come back to the final and win it again. This is what happened five years later.”

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