The pioneers of the French national rugby team

Founded in 1903, Societe Generale's Athletics Club (Club Athlétique de la Société Générale or CASG) soon established itself as one of Europe's top sports clubs. In the interwar years, its rugby first team could boast some ten French international players. We take a look back at the rise of the French national team.

In the aftermath of the First World War, the rugby section of Societe Generale's Athletics Club or Club Athlétique de la Société Générale (CASG) really took off. The French sports authorities, unsurprisingly, called on its first team to play promotional matches across the country. Some of the team's members, such as Eugène Soulié, Raoul Thiercelin, Marcel Besson, Marcel Lousteau and Gilbert Gérintes, were leadiong players in the French national side. 

© Archives historiques - Marcel Lousteau, Gilbert Gérintes and Marcel Besson

It was during the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, that "Les Banquiers" (the Bankers) surprised everyone and helped take the French team all the way to the final. Four years later, when the Games were held in Paris, they again got to the final. Sport banque, the CASG's quarterly magazine, paid tribute to the double silver medal winners, whose performances were also impressive at club level (Paris champions in 1926 and 1933), as well as in the Five Nations, which France had joined in 1910. The broad diversity of profiles was also remarkable: Societe Generale employees and customers, they included bellboys, cooks, corporate bosses and office workers. Out on the rugby field, united by their passion for this sport, they used their expertise on and off the ball, their team spirit and their athletic prowess to find a way to breach the opposing team's defence. The speed of the team's wingers and the vision of the fly-halves combined perfectly with the accuracy of the goal kicker, the strength of the props and the runs made by the backs. In April 1927 at Colombes stadium, "Les Banquiers" were prominent in France's historic first-ever victory against England, the kings and inventors of the game! This boded well for a bank that had already made rugby union a pillar of its sports policy – and indeed its corporate culture.

© Archives historiques - First CASG team (1925-1926); CASG rugby games in 1926