Aristide Barraud, 34, is a former rugby player. Fly half, trained at RC My, he notably played at the Stade français and in the French under-20 team. Wounded by bullet during the attacks of November 13, 2015 in Paris, he was forced to end his career at the age of 26. He has since devoted himself to writing, art and photography.
“My friend Tao is very shy. He is also the best impact player of the rugby planet. Difficult to dispute. Especially after his entry into play, once again decisive, during the victory of the Blues against the All Blacks, September 8. In Fabien Galthié’s strategy, the replacements have become “finishers”. Their role is to energize, transcend, bring new energy capable of relaunching the team.
When he enters the pitch, Romain Taofifénoa’s mission is to physically and psychologically mark the opposing team with his 135 kilos. Bring a decisive impact into the fight and secure victory. As far as I am concerned, it was in 2009, in Italy, the evening of our victory in the Six Nations Under-20 Tournament, that I measured its impact. And it was in your face.
“How can a boy with such sweet eyes hit so hard”
I met him a few days before this match. He arrived at the National Rugby Center in Marcoussis (Essonne) to replace a second row at short notice. From his immense body emanated a feeling of calm. At lunch, I sat next to him. I wanted to get to know him, to unravel the mystery of this strange look. Soft and strong at the same time. All my life I have been drawn to people whose roots grew in distant lands. His family is from the other side of the world, from Nouméa, in New Caledonia, where his parents were born.
During this meal, I realized that Tao is not a big talker. At the time, I wasn’t one either. This first contact between kings of silence did not spark. Fortunately, the same evening, Jean Dujardin came to visit the XV of France to present the second part ofOSS 117. We laughed all evening, and that’s when we became friends. With some people, things happen like that. There is no such thing as big discussions. We understand each other in a look, in a burst of laughter. And this is often the first impact that must be remembered.
The following Saturday, in Italy, we had a big match. We lifted the trophy, we were champions. To celebrate, our manager, Philippe Sella, took us to an evening. But nightclubs have never been my thing. I quickly went out and, in the parking lot, found Tao, alone. Obviously, he shared my little love for strobes and overly golden youth. We went back to the hotel together and I started to tease him. At that time, I liked to go up front. And that evening, I wanted to touch the limits of his calm. I went a little hard.
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