Simmers recalls his halcyon days in Paris

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SEVEN-year-old Adam Simmers will stride out on to Murrayfield as the Edinburgh team mascot tonight with his dad Chris in the stand remembering when he wore the sky blue and white of the famous Racing club bidding to topple the Scots.

Chris Simmers played centre with Edinburgh Accies and Edinburgh before joining Glasgow Caledonians in 1998-99.

But, in 1991, he took time after university to play at then Racing Club de France, the French sports club founded in the Paris suburbs in 1882.

With such French stars as Jean-Baptiste Lafond, Franck Mesnel, Denis Charvet and Eric Blanc, Racing won the French title in 1990, for the first time in 31 years, and Simmers pitched up the following summer.

“Accies went to Montpellier for a tour,” he recalled, “and I was going there for a season, but they couldn’t get a job for me so it broke down. I’d fancied going to Paris and I knew David Leckie, the Scotland B cap from Accies, was there so I looked him up. We went along to Racing Club, just turned up with our kit and had a trial. Unfortunately, David got injured and never played again, but I played for the seconds and then got into the firsts.

“It was great fun playing with some wonderful players, and they played in a unique Racing way. It was pretty amazing actually. Everything was about just running with the ball, even from behind your posts. They played touch all the time, everything fast, no bags or rucking pads, so it was a breath of fresh air to be honest.”

With Mesnel and Lafond the ring-leaders, the Racing backs became famous not only for their daring rugby but their wild fashion sense too, wearing berets in a game with Bayonne, make-up in another, dying their hair yellow, wearing bald caps and wigs, playing in long shorts and jackets and all sporting pink bow-ties in finals. The pink bow tie will be visible this weekend as Mesnel launched the Eden Park fashion label, with his signature bow tie, which now kits out many Sky TV presenters.

“They were called ‘le show bizz’,” said Simmers, now 42, “and they had a ‘champagne bar’ which only 1st XV players were allowed into. I left after that season to play for Scotland in the Students World Cup, but my one regret is that I didn’t go back and play a bit longer. My French is terrible!”

In 2001 Racing Club’s rugby section split to merge with the rugby section of US Metro, and form the pro club Racing Metro, and, with the help of Scotland prop Craig Smith, they returned to the top flight in 2009-10. Now coached by Pierre Berbizier, this is their second Heineken Cup campaign.