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Friday, 13 December, 2002, 18:50 GMT
Rugby legend turns to art
Jean-Pierre Rives
Jean-Pierre Rives: It's all about energy
Hugh Schofield

Casque d'Or they called him in his rugby-playing hayday and anyone who saw him 20 years ago swooping out of the French scrum into the opposing three-quarter line will not forget the sight.

Jean-Pierre Rives' trademark was his great mane of blond hair - Casque d'Or means Golden Helmet. It's thinning now, but it's still there.

Sculpture outside the senate
Twisted girders are his raw material
He's still a great bear of a man, and, in what might appear to be a surprising career change, he has become a sculptor.

He works in a disused railway shed in the north of Paris, where he hammers, welds and rivets massive girders into gigantic creations.

These have been bought by municipalities and companies around France, and some are now on display in the Luxembourg Gardens just outside the Senate.

Energy

He argues that in fact rugby and sculpture have a lot in common.

You have to find your place in the traffic, and find your place with yourself... It's a little complicated

Jean-Pierre Rives
"It's the energy," he said. "Because everything is energy. Sculpture is just invention and energy, and rugby is energy too, and invention sometimes."

But surely, I asked him, rugby is a team sport, whereas sculpture is a solitary activity.

"Yes it is a team sport, but you are always by yourself - with people around. You have to find your place in the traffic, and find your place with yourself," he said.

"It's a little complicated," he admitted.

Jean-Pierre took up sculpture when he was still a rugby player, after meeting a well-known sculptor, Albert Feraud, whom he describes as a great man and a great artist.

"He invited me to his studio, and I never got out," he told me.

Anxiety

Rives the man
Born: December 1952
59 caps for France
Married, no children
Owns restaurant
This is not the first exhibition by the former flanker, but he admits the location, a stone's throw from the classical Senate building, made him "a little anxious".

"The Luxembourg Gardens is a very special place, it's not easy to show in this place," he said, gesturing towards the modernistic and abstract sculptures.

Then, after reflection, he added: "The marriage is not so bad. Because it's so different, it's OK."

People were coming up to us as I was talking to him, embracing him, shaking his hand.

In France, he still is a legend.

See also:

13 Mar 02 | Sports Talk
19 Apr 01 | Rugby Union
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