PROFILE. Jérémy Aicardi (Monaco Rugby Sevens), sevens in his blood

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Head coach of the Monaco Rugby Sevens, the former member of the French sevens team aims to expand rugby in the Principality. Profile of a rugby fanatic, who is determined to prove that sevens is at the core of the discipline.

His destiny was written in advance. Rain or shine, cold or hot, little Jérémy would ride his bike to the Iscles stadium in Saint-Laurent-du-Var, just a short distance from the family home. “My parents didn’t have time to take me, so one day they said to me ‘take your bike and go play rugby’,” he recalls, somewhat nostalgically. “I fell in love with the sport straight away.”

Christophe Urios came to me and told me that I was ten kilos short for the Top 14

Jérémy Aicardi

A member of the Laurentin Rugby Stadium from the age of 7 to 15, the Nice native crossed France to believe in his dreams. Direction Bourgoin-Jallieu. A change of scenery. “My adjustment? When people are welcoming, everything is smoother. That was the case in Bourgoin-Jallieu, and then my father and my brother joined me.”

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After a stint with US Montmélian and its famous third half with its “saucisses au vin”, Jérémy Aicardi joined the US Oyonnax training centre in 2009, whilst studying metallurgy. Professionalism opened its doors to him. The pride of the Laurentin Rugby Stadium played on the Pro D2 pitch for four years, until the championship title and an accession to the Top 14 in 2013.

Among the pioneers of the French rugby sevens team

“As the new season approached, Christophe Urios came to me and told me that he wasn’t counting on me,” he says. “He told me I was ten kilos short for the Top 14.” The disappointment was huge. But the winger didn’t let himself be defeated. He’s not that type of person. Off to Saint-Nazaire Rugby in Fédérale 1 for a short one season experience.

He believes that sevens can make a huge contribution to 15s rugby

Fanny Horta

A new adventure awaited him. Fate once again. “I was selected for my first French B rugby sevens team.” Performing well, under the spell of this new discipline, far from the 15-a-side rugby that he loathes, the winger with impressive stability began to enjoy himself. “I signed a first one-year contract with the French A team, then a second one…”. And so on. Until 2018, Jérémy Aicardi played one match after another with the French team.

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But then his neck started to hurt and his back started to give out. “I’m 33 years old, you have to know when to move on,” he says without the slightest regret. His ability to pass on his knowledge took precedence over his love for competition. Coaching was an obvious choice. “Ever since he got a taste of sevens, he had only one desire: to introduce it to the younger players,” smiles his partner, Fanny Horta, a former French international rugby sevens player, who has just hung up her boots after winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games with the French national team. He is convinced that this discipline can bring a lot to rugby union.”

Monaco Rugby Sevens already shines

Back in the region for a year, after an experience as a rugby sevens coach for the Belgian national team, Jérémy Aicardi has settled in the Principality with the ambition of making Monaco a land of rugby. “We are working on a dual project between the two entities,” he explains, referring to Monaco Rugby Sevens and AS Monaco Rugby.

To see Monaco at the Olympic Games one day, the process will be long. It’s a 20-year effort

Jérémy Aicardi

It has been a great success so far, as Monaco Rugby Sevens has won the last two Supersevens events and is preparing to compete in the final tournament in Paris next November. But there is still a long way to go for Jérémy Aicardi. “The gap between the Fédérale 3 and the SuperSevens is still too big to see AS Monaco Rugby players defending the colours of Monaco Rugby Sevens. To see Monaco at the Olympic Games one day, the process will be long. It’s a 20-year effort. We have to go to the academies, unearth potential youngsters and support them to make them champions.”

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Convinced that rugby sevens has a huge future, Jérémy Aicardi spends day and night on this project, when he is not helping his mother and uncle, both vegetable growers. “They produce courgettes, lettuce, chard, fennel, celery, etc.,” he says. They supply certain schools in Monaco. The markets, at night, bring him back to real life. “I spent a year with them during the lockdown, I lost seven kilos.”

A passionate rugby player and workaholic

So when he is not in the fields of the Var plain, the former Oyonnax winger devotes all his time to rugby. “He is a passionate lad,” agrees Fanny Horta. “He spends hours thinking and reflecting on this project. His days are very long. Even though I’ve just finished my career, we don’t see each other much. Jérémy wants to bring back the emotions he experienced with the sevens.”

When you’re 15 and you’re a winger, you don’t touch the ball, it’s awful

Jérémy Aicardi

Repelled by the union, Jérémy Aicardi makes sure not to reproduce the rugby he knew. “When you’re a winger, you don’t touch the ball, it’s awful. With half as many players, the pleasure is tenfold.” Less fighting, more playing. The game, that recurring theme in his life. “I want to develop small-sided rugby, in parallel with the union. The more the latter play with seven players, the more they will get to run, do 2 v 1s, tackles…”

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Another way of understanding rugby, which could lead Monaco to make a name for itself on the international scene. Monaco, the future breeding ground of rugby? With Jérémy Aicardi, all dreams are permitted.