This weekend we welcome Pia to our world famous stadium for the first time ever. It is only in the past few seasons that matches against French opposition have become more commonplace. This programme is from our first encounter with a French team.
One of the interesting things about collecting rugby league memorabilia is that it’s not always the programme from the biggest fixture which turns into a valuable item. Cup final publications and reminders of big games do have sentimental value, but a match attended by 80,000 people at Wembley will have enough copies produced to never become rare.
On the other hand, there is today’s example. Not only was this printed for a relatively obscure fixture played before a low crowd, but also it’s a single sheet issue, notorious for getting thrown away and forgotten about instead of kept and cherished. Rovers are better than most clubs at doing their utmost to ensure that every home fixture is marked with an official match programme. Sometimes, in the case of fixtures rearranged at very short notice, it’s just not possible to get an issue together. This has only happened around 20 times in the last 50 years, so single sheet issues are rare and highly collectable.
So, on a wet and windy Friday evening in September the French national team were over in England for some warm up fixtures before their international matches against Great Britain, and Rovers were one of three clubs who provided them with opposition. The club took advantage of the opportunity to forward the proceeds from the game to the Mick Gibbins’ benefit fund. Despite its plain and simple cover, this team-sheet managed to make an unfortunate mistake with the apostrophe in Mick’s name.
Despite its friendly status, Rovers had a pretty strong team out, no fewer than nine of whom would go on to win the Cup at Wembley a few months later. The French too had a fair share of well known names, including winger Patrick Solal who later signed for Hull and redoubtable back-rower Jean-Jacques Cologni. Scrum-half was Ivan Greseque, father of recent Rovers’ player Maxime.
In the event, the game failed to rise above the difficult conditions and France won a dour encounter 13-5.