Jean Pierre Pagès, author of “Gueules du Rugby”, makes a stopover in the Hautes-Pyrénées: “It’s wonderful to see how these faces shine.”

Jean-Pierre Pagès is the author of Gueules du Rugby. Driven by the success of his first book, published in 2015, this Toulonnais, “fed by mayol”, has been touring France on the Oval since last year, portraying former players to publish a book a year up to the 2023 World Cup .

How did you come up with this concept from Gueules du Rugby?

Before the 2015 World Cup, I said to myself that we had to make a collection of portraits because we can see everything on a face, there is an experience. I spoke to a friend, Eric Blanc. We went on a kind of model with the guys from Racing and the guys from Toulon I knew. There was a “wow” effect, so we said, it’s good, we have something. It was a childhood dream to write a rugby history book. We didn’t really have an editorial line. However, this first book in 2015 with Thierry Dusautoir on the cover legitimized the “Gueules du Rugby” brand. The clubs, the players: everyone wanted to be part of it. Media feedback was also important.

What do these faces tell you

What’s crazy is the emotion, the truth. There is a lot of crying when the players talk about themselves. Filled with feelings come back and the guys let go because they are retired. They tell themselves they can deliver anything since there is a recipe. In fact, we are talking about human relationships. There are also anecdotes of fights, from the locker room. People are confident, we are there to make them bigger.

We’d be tempted to link to the Panini albums …

Not quite. We meet people, there is a portrait on one side. By scanning each player’s QR code, we can find the person’s video interview. There is a meeting. Panini is more of a “collection” logic.

Rugby is a sport that we often hammer home with: “It used to be better”. Do you feel that in your interviews?

In the human relationship everything has changed with professionalism. When I see people who were on the pitch years ago, when they meet again today, you feel love, the feeling of being part of the same circle. It got lost. In today’s world, we skip everything very quickly.

How do you perceive upper Pyrenees rugby with your outer eye?

I am very poorly able to answer because in Toulon we were brought up in the culture of “we don’t care about others” (smile). This is something that is instilled: walking in front of others without paying attention to making face … It is the side we have against the rest of the world. But here in Bigorre, a few tens of kilometers away, you had three different playing styles between Lourdes, Bagnères and Tarbes. Everything was gradually lost. I came to Lourdes 25 years ago and discovered Béguère. And when I came back this week nothing had changed. It is sad, we can no longer even speak of “Sleeping Beauty”, but of “Beauty that is being wiped out”.

Most of all, is this titanic job you do big kif from a personal standpoint?

(Smile) Of course. Beyond sport, it’s an extraordinary human adventure. You meet a lot of people who may or may not be involved in rugby. This sport makes these meetings possible. I’m in love with this game and it’s wonderful to see all of these guys’ faces light up. Everyone becomes a child again.

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