INTERVIEW. Coupe du monde de rugby 2023 : « J’en ai les larmes aux yeux ! » Le Gersois Martin Page-Relo, sélectionné avec l’Italie, raconte son Mondial

l’essentielHe was rested for the second match of the Squadra Azzurra, on Wednesday, September 20 against Uruguay (5:45 pm). But he was present during the victory against Italy (52-8), coming on as a substitute in the 48th minute. The scrum-half, born in L’Isle-Jourdain and former player of Stade Toulousain, explains to La Dépêche what he is experiencing for his first World Cup, wearing the Nazionale jersey.

If someone had told you a year ago that you would be part of the adventure with Italy in France, what would you have said in response?

I believe I would have laughed, I wouldn’t have believed it (laughs). It was far from my mind to think that I would be participating in the 2023 World Cup in France. Even more so with Italy. So I think I would have definitely laughed.

Comment avez-vous répondu à l’appel de Kieran Crowley au printemps dernier ?

I had some knowledge of it because I had discussed it with Ange (Capuozzo, Editor’s Note). I knew that Kieran Crowley had taken into consideration the fact that I was eligible for selection. However, it was not certain that he would retain me for the end of the 2023 Six Nations Tournament and this World Cup.

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Vous parlez italien ?

J’en avais fait trois ans durant mes années au lycée donc j’avais les bases. Durant le VI Nations c’était quand même un peu compliqué sans mentir même si je commençais à me débrouiller. Désormais, je n’ai plus besoin de traduction, je comprends la totalité ou presque de la langue et je n’ai plus de mal à communiquer.

Last season was quite a remarkable one for you, being called up to the Squadra and becoming the champion of France. Additionally, you changed clubs to join Lyon. How did you experience this?

It was a great sense of pride. When things align so well, we take advantage of it. I thanked my loved ones and enjoyed it to the fullest. The past few months I have spent, both with Italy and with the team, are moments I dreamed of as a child. It is finally happening, so I am trying to have as much fun as possible. I am enjoying it to the fullest.

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Did you have the intention to leave Stade Toulousain in order to seek more playing time?

At Stade Toulousain, when there are players like Antoine Dupont in front of you, it’s difficult to play every weekend and keep going. I’m not saying it will be easier in Lyon because there will also be competition there with Baptiste Couilloud, who is also an international player. So I wouldn’t say I’m going there to seek playing time, but rather for an additional excitement to step out of my comfort zone.

Mesurez-vous la distance parcourue depuis l’école de rugby à l’Isle-Jourdain jusqu’à la participation à la Coupe du monde ?

When I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes. It’s a lot of work and sacrifices, even if we don’t always realize it. I often hear people say « guys are just chasing a ball », but it has been difficult to get here. I’m not complaining at all because I live my passion, but the journey has been very long. To be able to play in a World Cup at the age of 24 and sign with a top club in the Top 14 is highly appreciated.

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Comment vivez-vous votre intégration dans cette Squadra alors que vous êtes encore novice ?

The team is young, very playful, and not just in the rugby sense. There is a lot of laughter and banter, so I feel comfortable there. As someone who loves to joke and « mess with people », I fit in very well. The atmosphere is great, I was warmly welcomed and integrated.

Si nous parlons de terrain, vous faites partie à la fois des All Blacks et de l’équipe de France, ce qui signifie que vous allez jouer contre plusieurs de vos amis. Est-ce que cela aura un impact personnel pour vous ?

Firstly, our matches against the Blacks and the Blues are the third and fourth ones, so it’s in the back of my mind but not completely. Our main goal is to win the first two matches to qualify for the World Cup in four years. Playing against France, where I am good friends with half of the team, will be special and I do think about it, but I shouldn’t let it consume my thoughts.

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Quel est l’état d’esprit actuel de l’équipe italienne, étant donné les résultats de plus en plus prometteurs de cette belle génération ?

We are a competitive team that continues to grow with young players. We all want to win. If we win our first two matches, we will be able to play a quarterfinal against the Blacks or France.