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As France's oldest team sport, rugby football has throughout its 125-year history reflected major changes in French society. This book analyzes for the first time the complex variety of motives that have led the French to adopt and remake this rather unlikely British sport in their own image. A major site for the construction of masculine, class-based regional and national identities, France's tradition of 'Champagne rugby' continues to be as subject to dramatic upheavals as the society that produced it. The game's precocious professionalism and endemic violence have not infrequently caused the French to be cast as international pariahs. Such isolation, exacerbated by internal politics, has led the French not only to encourage the extension of the sport beyond its British imperial base (into Italy and Romania, for instance), but also to engage in some uncomfortable tactical alliances, most obviously with apartheid South Africa.
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