Recently, French rugby great, Dimitri Yachvili, has set the process in motion to leave the game of rugby. At a press conference, he announced that he is set to retire much to the disappointment of fans. His record speaks for itself with 373 points, surpassed only by Chris Lamaison clinched for his country, appearing in the World Cup twice and being an integral part of two Grand Slams.
Along with him, another French player has also decided to exit the game. Sébastien Chabal will also be retiring on the tailend of his victory at the Pro D2 in Lyon. The two players began playing for France around the same time and are now departing on a congruent schedule as well. While their time in the sport has been more equivalent, their playing skills have not.
Chabal hasn’t been one to make the headlines on frequent occasions with the exception of a less than savoury outburst that earned him banishment from the game for almost a month. His playing lacked that je ne sais quoi that Yachvilli displayed and even in his peak, his shining moments on the pitch were rare. In the past, Chabal has been tagged as primarily and impact player, a designation that he tried to shed. With his massive presence, he could certainly go in for the tackle and could even manage the charge on his good days. He did, however, have a tendency to drop the ball and his strategic game was lacking as well. His coaches were clear about his strengths and played to them whenever the chance presented itself as when he did deliver on performance, it was truly motivating for the other players.
Chabal really made an impression when he grew his ample beard and up to that point, he had virtually no presence and he easily slid under the radar. His facial hair was born of a superstitious venture set to be shaved on the birth of his first child. His wife talked him into keeping it and he’s done so ever since.
His look clinched his spot as the face of the squad in a proposed marketing campaign around the time of the World Cup in 2007. They liked his very manly, brute presence and felt that it would work well to incorporate into the image that they were trying to convey – of a strong, primal team of tough, unbeatable men. Chabal is adored by women in France who say that they are tired of the primping and preening of modern men. They are enthralled by his throwback masculinity.
Chabal wasted no time in translating this image into a business of its own, and as such, relying on industry as the foundation for his income. He launched a fine dining restaurant, a line of men’s clothing, and even a wine with his iconic face emblazoning the label. He is pursued for endorsements and he rarely refuses, even when he has to parade around in a fairy costume. He has used his presence to promote the game of rugby in his country as well and while he’s not the biggest star of the pitch, he is certainly well recognized where ever he goes.
As he retires, he does so with the full awareness of what he meant as a rugby player and he has no illusions. He enjoyed all of the time that he had to spend with his teammates and playing the sport and he knows that moving forward in his life will likely take him to higher peaks than he could reach on the pitch.