“The wound remains open”, regrets referee Romain Poite, who was unable to celebrate his last

Interview with RMC Sport – He took off on the sly, without anyone, including him, who whistled his last game at the Stade Toulousain-Stade Rochelais play-off two weeks ago. International rugby referee Romain Poite (46) regrets not being warned sooner and must now draw the curtain in 18 years to referee before joining RC Toulon.

Two weeks ago you whistled the last game of your career, at Stade Toulousain-Stade Rochelais, but it went completely unnoticed. How to explain it?

It is true that the element of surprise was well prepared as I was not told it was my last game. And that’s where the shoe pinches for me, because for an outing of 15 years of professionalism, with all the opportunities I’ve had at international, European or French level, I wanted to score, not on the pitch, but off it. , this goal of career and share it with close people, people I love. And that opportunity was not offered to me. Here I have a little more bitterness.

Would you have done things differently?

I would have already shared this end of adventure with my family and my friends. Beyond the match, in which Toulouse and La Rochelle faced each other, the wink was nice because I come from Toulouse by adoption and was born in Charente Maritime, near La Rochelle (in Rochefort, editor’s note), making do with people with whom you want to share and emphasize your emotions. Because this work often leads us to maintain and control our emotions, not to let anything through. And that’s what I would have liked, to let go of all that and share. After the final I was of course a candidate. I also asked my management several times if I was eligible for this competition. I always told them I would finish my contract with the professionalism I’ve had all these years. And so of course I would have liked to direct an extra finale, but it wasn’t mine.

You were indeed in the running, like other umpires, to make it to the Castres-Montpellier final, whose appointment was scheduled for the Monday after this play-off. It ends up being Tual Trainini. Would you rather have been warned in advance to enjoy this barrage?

Yes. Say it in advance of course. Without being afraid of the reaction. Since I’ve already done two, I could have understood. Where I have a lot of bitterness is in that I was never told it was my last game. Even if, to be honest, before Clermont-Montpellier (26th day, editor’s note), I told myself it could be my last game and it was necessary to be “clean”. But it was also to give me the tools to commit myself to going all the way. I have been promised nothing, I repeat. The final was not mine. But from the moment I was told I was signing up for the final stages and the final, I gave myself the means to go all out. And if you’re told you haven’t missed anything on the pitch, it’s even more frustrating.

Referees have to adapt. So we have to put this ending aside so as not to tarnish all these years?

It is not us who decide which game to referee. Nominations are accepted. They are all good at this level, only the objectives can be different. I’d always told my management I liked these killer games, the complicated ones, because that’s what I’m most into. But I have always accepted appointments with great honor and respect. Only there I estimate that the respect was only about me in the end.

Have you received messages from the rugby world?

Yes, and I was pleasantly surprised. That’s what comforts me a bit, in that I left a human mark that was respectable and not too “disgusting”. Testimonials of sympathy, misunderstanding, bitterness. Some even told me they had a stomachache for me with what had happened to me. That said, there is plenty to see and do. I could focus on more personal stuff and you have to turn the page, move on. It’s like in a referee’s career, there are good times and bad times and bad times, we use them to rebuild, bounce back and move forward with more determination and ambition. But the wound stays open, even if it’s not something that (it stops)… I’ve never lived too much in the past and I’m not going to start today. There is a bright future to build, a great adventure to experience, so that’s where I’m going now.

“In 2013, when I expelled Bismarck from Plessis, the first yellow card was not there”

You put an end to eighteen years of arbitration at the highest level. How did you embrace this career as a referee?

I became a referee thanks to my father, who was involved in the Midi-Pyrénées Rugby Commission at the time, but not with the referees. I was playing in the Junior Crabos category in Graulhet at the time and he told me that they were looking for referees, that it would be nice to help the committee. I said to myself, “why not!” And since we played with the juniors on Sunday mornings and we spent our Saturday afternoons in the pub, my father told me that I couldn’t sit in the pub the day before the games either. And let me keep my big mouth shut because I was lying on the floor quite painfully (smile). That way I can understand the difficulties of the role. So without questioning myself, I had to put a stop to my playing career, which was very modest. I switched 100% to arbitration, a passion that has brought me to this day. It was a difficult decision to leave a collective to move towards the individual. But an assumed decision, which I took great pleasure in.

Looking back, what is the pinnacle of your career, the game in terms of play, emotions?

There were many good times, many great opportunities, but I’m sticking to the 2011 European Cup Final between Leinster and Northampton. Because it was a really crazy game, at the Millennium in Cardiff, where I liked to referee. A game with two different halves: the first was dominated by Northampton and the second by Leinster, who came back and crushed their opponent when everyone thought the English would win the game (Northampton led 22 to 6 at half time before losing 33 to 22). It was exceptional and we weren’t talking about arbitration. And it’s better not to talk about it. That day I was behind the wheel of a Ferrari, I turned the ignition key and it drove by itself. A great pleasure, a great moment.

Conversely, a difficult time?

There were many. The hardest part was when I missed my 2013 Rugby Championship match between New Zealand and South Africa. I gave two yellow cards, which turned red, to the South African whore Bismarck du Plessis. There I closed the book of the match on the 47th. Because it’s complicated to play with 14 especially against the blacks and that year South Africa really had the means to beat New Zealand and win the league. Except that the first yellow card, for a high tackle, was not there. I paid a lot. I personally had no influence on it, but I know my family did. My oldest daughter was just getting started on Facebook and she had stumbled upon a site where they cut my head off. She had come back to respond to the comments that were bitter. Anyway, all the difficulties in a career as a referee, we have to use them to grow. And that has always been my motivation. Once we’ve seen the game on video, we’ve seen the difficulties, we’ve thought about it, we quickly project ourselves on what still needs to be done to get going again.

“The RCT, a necessarily exciting challenge!”

What are you going to regret?

The end of the season, of career, is current. So far I have no regrets. Because I also have a better future. I love exploring, reinvigorating myself and it is challenging for me to embrace a new career. There are regrets. Because I don’t spend more time with my family. This is an opportunity to thank my immediate family, my wife and my daughters, because without such a solid family foundation, you cannot make the careers you have made. We are always away, away from home and knowing that someone takes good care of their family, their loved ones is important because you have to be good in your head to be good in your body. And vice versa. Also the regret that I did not make it to the last leg of the World Cup. I made three, but always stayed in the group stage. I could perform on the sidelines, but the Holy Grail in front of us is in the middle. And the regret that I made bad decisions and maybe betrayed the final result of certain matches. But we are always wrong with honesty and not with dishonesty. So yes, there are regrets, but life goes on.

RC Toulon, in which you will participate this summer, is a great challenge…

An exciting challenge! Quite unlikely in that my profile interested some Top 14 clubs and we reached an agreement with the leaders of Toulon. I discovered profoundly a president I did not know (Bernard Lemaitre) and whom I valued. I get on very well with Pierre Mignoni and Franck Azéma. I have a lot of respect for men and we get to the essential, it’s the human adventure. The discovery, the internship and I asked to get the coaching diploma in Aix-en-Provence. And I will feed on it, share a new life, in a collective, with people. I will not turn my back on the referee, I will focus on the team performing to put the referee at ease so that everyone stands on the 80th with great satisfaction and pleasure on Saturday or Sunday. It is an inevitably exciting challenge. A human challenge, one of my criteria. A transversal adventure I wanted to be 100% involved with the club and work with all categories and let the project develop to develop the techniques with many categories and make sure that when the players arrive at the highest level they are done with related to the rule and my area of ​​expertise.

Alexandre Ruiz at Montpellier, Romain Poite at Toulon, Laurent Cardona at UBB. The club is the future of the referee?

The decision of Alex (Ruiz), who I am very good friends with, and the proof that he had the skills since we are on the cusp of the Top 14 final and that he is going to play it may be a future . Do others go to the clubs? In any case, I had no future with the Federation. I was told that in December. So I seized this opportunity and I will take it with great pleasure. After that, I don’t know if all clubs will hire another referee. In any case, it’s not a standard choice for me. It has matured. There are good things to do. In the partnership I had with the Stade Français this year, I realized it was no better or worse than what the coaches were doing. It was complementary. And we can bring a stone to the building in the performance of the team. With some parallel visions to make the team perform more. I’ll have time to discuss it with Pierre (Mignoni) and Franck (Azéma), but I’m not too worried about that.