In the land of the oval, rugby is also played underwater! Every Wednesday evening, a dozen of them, men and women, compete in underwater rugby evenings at the Albin-Minville swimming pool, in the Bellefontaine district in Toulouse (Haute-Garonne).
A funny sport, a mixture of basketball and rugby but in apnea and underwater, from Germany and which made its appearance in the Pink City in 2017, under the impetus of enthusiasts. In the city of Rouge et Noir, the team called Stade Toulousain underwater depends on the Stade Toulousain Nautique association. Once the mask, the snorkel, the fins and the protective helmet put on, the players must do without a ball filled with salt water, heavy of 2 kg, to score in a kind of basket baskets located at the ends of the ground.
“What’s cool is that it plays out in three dimensions. We can make passes in all directions, details Laurianne Palin, the coach of the Toulouse team. In the water, everything is cushioned, which allows the sport to be mixed: even a woman can watch the goalkeeper! That said, it’s still a contact sport and it’s physical. The main thing is to be comfortable in the water ”.
In the pool, two teams face off, six against six, divided into two attackers, two defenders and two goalkeepers. Underwater, the ball passes from hand to hand as passes between players and tackles, everyone knowing where to stand to ensure the strategy in place. The objective is to slide the ball into the opponent’s basket placed at the bottom of the water.
For Thomas, who previously practiced swimming and team sports, “Underwater rugby is fun, giving the impression of falling into a child when you are at the bottom of the water. I did water polo and I don’t like the competition side. Here, we take pleasure, while being tactical to relay the colleague at his post when he has no air ”. Camille, one of the last to arrive at the club, learned about the sport from a colleague. “The first time I came, I thought I would never make it! But in fact, it is not necessary to be a good swimmer, assures this thirty-something. I enjoy each session more and more and I learn a lot ”.
To attract new players to this original sport, the Toulousain underwater stadium offers initiation sessions. The club hopes to attract new talent to participate in the competitions. Five other underwater rugby clubs exist in France, in Bordeaux, Albi, Toulouse, Paris and Puy-l’Évêque.