Meet the new shirt – same as the old shirt? Yes, when France became the final team to unveil their Rugby World Cup 2015 shirt (the likes of Canada, Georgia and Namibia have been revealed, stay tuned for reviews soon!), the response was muted to say the least. Whereas most teams have opted to create a whole new shirt for the Rugby World Cup, France has instead opted to adapt the home shirt that they’ve been using since last November.
It’s quite nice in a way – fans who bought the shirt will appreciate that they don’t have do fork out for a new one, and there’s something very old-school about simply taking the shirt you already have and sticking a RWC patch on it. In a way, it’s kinda the reverse of what Wales do – they bring out a new kit for the Rugby World Cup, then once the tournament’s over they shuffle the badges on the front and slap a main sponsor on there… et voila, you’ve got Wales’ regular kit for the next two years.
And yet, while there’s no denying some of the benefits, there’s something a little anti-climatic about waiting all this time to release the new World Cup Kit, in fact being the very last team of the tournament to do so… and then you just slap a World Cup patch on it and send it out?! Talk about dashing our expectations.
That said, it’s not entirely accurate to state that this is an identical shirt to the one worn in this year’s Six Nations – they’re similar for sure, but there are a few small differences, and one pretty big one that are worth drawing your attention to.
Starting with the small stuff, the striking dark blue bands on the sleeves, which were a nod to the 1995 World Cup team, remain, as does the lighter shade of blue that caused many eyebrows to be raised back in November. The new over-the-shoulder stripes have been removed, however, perhaps to make the jersey feel a bit less cluttered with the addition of the RWC patch and the moving of the Adidas logo into the centre of the jersey below the collar.
We can’t quite understand why they’ve also decided to remove the stitched ‘FFR’ initials from the base of the collar placket, however – it was a nice little detail, and there seems to be no good reason to remove it. Odd.
The biggest and most notable difference between the new France shirt and the old, however, is centred around the FFR badge, where you’ll notice a curious, squiggly pattern that runs from just below the rooster all the way up over the shoulder.
These aren’t just mere squiggles, however – they’re the result of a collaboration between Adidas and french sculptor and artist Jean-Pierre Rives. If that name rings a bell, it’s because Rives also played for France 59 times in the 1970s and 80s, winning Grand Slams in 1977 and 1981, captaining Les Bleus a record 34 times and leading them to their first ever victory over the All Blacks. Pretty tidy.
While Rives has focussed on his art since retiring in 1984, he’s still regarded as perhaps France’s most legendary captain, and a cult hero whose uncompromising, body-on-the-line style of play is fondly remembered. Given that the French have often been accused of lacking heart and pride in their recent fallow period, it’s entirely fitting then that a player who embodied that spirit should be involved here.
The jersey is ‘tattooed’ with a depiction of ‘Les Rubans de la Mémoire‘ – ‘The Ribbons of Memory’, some of Rives’ most notable and striking sculptures, and that’s not all, inside the collar of the shirt is a message from Rives to the French players who will don the shirt at this year’s World Cup, explaining the significance of the Ribbons to him, and why they’re featured on the shirt.
For those who don’t speak French, the text reads, “The ribbons of memory are at the centre of our origins and the start of all hope. Each individual has a unique experience which forms part of our community and the history of these communities is the memory of a nation.”
It’s poetic stuff – of course it is, he’s French – but it definitely feels like there’s an underlying message of individual and collective responsibility that will surely resonate with the French public, in light of the criticism often levelled at the French team in the last five years.
It feels like Rives’ attempt to remind the French players that their time in the jersey is unique and special, and that team has a chance to do something that will live on in the national memory, just like he did in the 80s.
Time will tell if the message gets through to the current French squad, but it’s a nice idea and concept nonetheless, and it definitely adds something to a shirt that might have been a little uninspiring otherwise.
Not that there was ever anything wrong with the design, we really liked it in November and we really like it now… but the World Cup is a special occasion, and surely that deserves a brand new design, too?
SHIT/GOOD RATING: Good (but we’d have preferred something new!)