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Ibrahim Diarra dead at the age of 36

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Ibrahim Diarra in action for Castres Olympique in 2012 (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

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France’s rugby community are saluting the memory of ex-Test level flanker Ibrahim Diarra, who has died at the age of 36 following a heart attack.

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The long-serving Castres back row, who earned his only French Test selection in a 2008 win over Italy, took ill last week at his home in the Paris region and has since passed away. 

Diarra, who also lined out for Montauban, Pau and low league Lavaur in a career that began in 2005 and carried through until 2018, had retired to the Ile-de-France to recover after a heart alert.

France newspaper L’Equipe have reported the thoughts of some of his former coaches. Marc Lievremont, who gave Diarra his only Test cap eleven years ago, said: “He was a boy who was always positive, who always had a huge smile grafted on his face. I don’t know if we could find someone to say something negative about him. 

“I remember his first steps at Marcoussis, his enthusiasm, his first press conference which had caused much talk and much laughter too. It was the joy of life, the enthusiasm. In addition, he was a hyper respectful kid who displayed a form of freshness compared to rugby pro.

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“He was on top of that a very good rugby player who had a good career. The few times I met him afterwards, he was always equal to himself with that huge smile. Now I think of his family. Somewhere I am happy to have offered him this (Test team) selection even if it seems ridiculous when something like this happens. It really pains me.”

Laurent Travers, his former coach at Montauban and then title-winning Castres, said: “I had him eight years with me. Together, we won a title with Montauban (Pro D2 in 2006), a title with Castres (Top 14 in 2013). 

“He was an important player, a manager but also much more than that… he was always there to bring joy. If the weather was bad outside, it was enough for Ibou to arrive to find the sun.

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“He was a boy who sacrificed himself for the team. He never thought of himself, always of others. For him, life was good and you had to smile at him. I will always remember putting music to him in training the day before the final against Toulon. He always played it down.”

Diarra’s old club Castres tweeted: “Ibrahim was a great player and one of the great architects of our 2013 title. Beyond that, he marked us with his immense generosity, his communicative good humour, his generous smile and his sparkling eyes.

“He had remained close to the club. Our director Matthias Rolland, who was his team-mate at Montauban and Castres, looked after him like a brother. We will help his family organise his funeral in Senegal and we share their immense sorrow.”

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