After an hour of sleep on the evening of the coronation against Castres (29-10) Friday June 24, in Saint-Denis, and the reception given at the GGL Stadium on Saturday evening, Mohed Altrad, the boss of the MHR, offered himself an hour tennis during his Sunday outing. “I suffered, but it feels good,” he said, a metaphor for a title of champion of France welcomed as a relief after eleven years of presidency.
“In ten years, if we do not win a new Brennus, gossips will say that the MHR is an error in history”, predicts President Mohed Altrad, proud and moved to have won his first Shield, Friday evening against Castres (29-10) at the Stade de France. Emotional peak, chambering with President Macron, quest for identity, mea culpa, ambitions in the European Cup… The boss of the MHR still has things to say. “The title, now it’s acquired, it’s over,” he said, as if to better project himself towards a 2022-23 season during which he will wear the champion’s costume.
Does this first Brennus Shield allow you to enter the big leagues?
Yes, and I am lucky to be the president of this institution at that time. I’m happy, but it’s not over. You have to confirm. In ten years, if we do not win a new Brennus, gossips will say that the MHR is an error in history. There was popular jubilation at the Stade de France, I think there was a very clear emotional note in our favor, which made us very happy, proud and moved. Montpellier can be considered a land of rugby.
Why is it important to put your name on the list?
Sometimes, at some point, history imposes itself on you. I am the first to have brought two things to Montpellier: a global group (Altrad) and this title. This young 36-year-old club had no Brennus, I brought it to them. As a team of course, because alone you can’t achieve anything.
Was it that year?
The three tries scored in six minutes, it is never seen in general in the final of the Top 14, which is the best championship in the world. Dominating our opponent so much in the context of a final is still exceptional.
Friday, the stars were aligned, the gods were with us, we took advantage of this moment to mark our history. I hope it won’t end there.
I say it with a lot of humility, the guy who has a lot of money, who wants to do PSG or Barça and who sulks, it was not my intention
After the match, you delivered a mea culpa live on TV (“I spent time understanding rugby, I made mistakes, I had to correct them. The press stigmatized us excessively to my taste but it was justified because we didn’t have an identity.”)…
I wanted to relate the relations of the press with me and, through me, those of the club. We were stigmatized but we forget that the club is young (created in 1986) and that in 2011 I was a novice. Previously, I was not interested in rugby, I watched the France team out of national pride, that’s all. I say it with a lot of humility, the guy who has a lot of money, who wants to play PSG or Barça and who sulks, it was not my intention. Simply, I had a bad appreciation of a situation, the criticisms were right on this subject, it was the reflection of what I was. Well, we understood and corrected the situation two years ago, now we are there. We will have to forgive our missteps.
Doesn’t this quest for the club’s identity refer to your own inner quest?
Surely. When we are uprooted, we cling to the branches and, little by little, we build our identity. For me, it’s France, through Montpellier, rugby, economy, literature, my family.
“If we win, the look on us will change,” you said in our columns before the final. You confirm ?
I sincerely mean it. Even our detractors cannot deny that something happened. There is the way of playing, we played as a team, we don’t have more stars than the others. We won, no one disputes this victory.
The match was folded in the 12th minute. We showed character in defense, they did not score. There is nothing to say.
The title, now it’s acquired, it’s over. We are proud of it, Philippe has done a monumental job, but watch out for what happens next.
What did President Macron tell you?
We joked. In 2018 (the CO had beaten the MHR 29-13 in the final), he had just been elected (May 7, 2017). At the end of the match, I was sitting next to him, he said to me: “Next time, it will be for you.” There, before the match, I whisper to him: “Don’t forget, this time it’s for me.” He replies: “Listen, I’m here, next to you!” After the match, I thanked him: “You kept your word, even if the public was not very nice to you.”
What image will you keep of these 48 hours of madness?
Many images of Montpellier flashed through my head.
They say it’s always harder to confirm?
It’s clear. There are examples of clubs winning the Brennus and having a difficult season behind. Remember Castres after 2018. I am very aware of this, I also told Philippe Saint-André (the director of rugby) that I wanted to talk to him as soon as possible about next season. The title, now it’s acquired, it’s over. We are proud of it, Philippe has done a monumental job, but watch out for what happens next. The players go on vacation for five weeks, the off-season will be short.
We recruited very well – Ben Lam (Bordeaux-Bègles), Carbonel (Toulon), Coly (Stade Montois), Doumenc (Carcassonne), Chauvac (Brive), Tu’inukuafe (Auckland Blues) – but the players will have to work physically, because there, they will let go, drink, eat, gain weight, lose cardio…
Do you have higher ambitions for the next European Cup?
Yes, we are going to play it, clearly. We move on to a much tougher competition, especially with the arrival of South African franchises. It will be necessary to play the same way on both tables. I think we’re equipped for that. We will have more quality in the workforce, with a president who will invest as much as possible.
In the same way that you are a sponsor of the France and New Zealand teams…
I am the biggest investor in world rugby. All that is tens of millions. My commitments do not stop there, I will continue and develop them.