1892 – The Stade Francais game

Rosslyn Park beat Stade Francais

A rather late match report since the game was played on Easter Monday 1892.

For the record Park won by 3 goals and 3 tries to nil.

The first international match in France

Match report by Stephen Cooper on The Rugby History Society website.

As ever Stephen unearthed more from the archive sources and the article explains the provenance of the beautiful sculpture by Popineau in the display cabinet.

For the record Park won by 3 goals and 3 tries to nil.

Rosslyn Park, Stade Français and the Olympic Games

In 1892, Baron Pierre de Coubertin made his first speech at the Sorbonne University of Paris, calling for the revival of the International Olympic Games. Such sports exchanges, he said, would be the “new free trade” of Europe.

De Coubertin’s original sporting love was rugby. Intrigued by what he had read about English public schools, in 1883, at the age of twenty, de Coubertin went to Rugby and to other English schools to see for himself. He described the results in a book, ‘L’Education en Angleterre’, which was published in Paris in 1888. The hero of his book is Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby: “the leader and classic model of English educators,” wrote de Coubertin, “gave the precise formula for the role of athletics in education. The cause was quickly won. Playing fields sprang up all over England”.

What de Coubertin saw on the playing fields of Rugby and the other English schools he visited was how “organised sport can create moral and social strength”. Not only did games help to set the mind and body in equilibrium, it also prevented the time being wasted in other ways. First developed by the ancient Greeks, it was an approach to education that he felt the rest of the world had forgotten and to whose revival he was to dedicate the rest of his life.

Having watched the game at Rugby school in England where it was invented, he was one of the founders of the game in France, and set up the first French schools championship in 1890. He refereed France’s first championship final between Racing Club and Stade Français at Bagatelle Park in Paris in 1892. In April of that year, he was instrumental in bringing Rosslyn Park FC to Paris, to play Stade Français.

This was the first time an English Club had played in continental Europe and aroused great interest on both sides of the Channel. When the match was announced, some of the London newspapers expressed serious doubts as to its advisability saying it might lead to ‘International Complications’! The game was played at the grounds of the French Coursing Club Neuilly Levallois on Easter Monday in terrible weather – rain, hail, snow, thunder and lightning – but was very well attended, including Baron de Coubertin. Rosslyn Park beat Stade by 3 goals and 3 tries to nil.

A special commemorative sculpture, commissioned from Popineau Fils of Paris, was presented by Lady Dufferin, wife of the British Ambassador, to Park captain E Figgis, and now resides at Rosslyn Park. The beautiful and delicate silver sculpture portrays a symbolic branch with laurel leaves intertwined with English oak leaves. A medallion bears the date 18th April 1892. The Ambassador also stood “champagne and sandwiches” to both teams – another symbolic Anglo-French gesture.

Popineau Paris 1892
The Popineau Sculpture

That very same year, suitably inspired, de Coubertin made the first public call to revive the Olympic Games and the first modern Olympics were held four years later in Athens. Can Park and Stade claim some part in inspiring the modern Olympic games?

Further matches were played in 1893, 1900 and 1912.The Stade acquaintance was renewed in 1945, when Rosslyn Park were the first club to play in France after the end of the Second World War, this time winning 6-3.

As a modern day postscript to the story, a call from the IRB in spring 2008 led to Rosslyn Park’s U12 Mini team starring in the IRB’s video for its bid to make Rugby Sevens an Olympic Sport in 2016 which will see rugby return to the Olympics for the first time since 1924.


Rosslyn Park club archives and minutes

‘Fifty Years of Rosslyn Park’ by C.C. Hoyer Millar

‘One hundred years of Rugby Football: A history of Rosslyn Park Football Club 1879-1979’ Ed. Rex Alston


‘Olympism: selected writings of Baron Pierre de Coubertin’, ed Norbert Muller, IOC

RFU Museum, Twickenham

© Rosslyn Park FC 2017