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Monaco millions no help for rugby team

Published: 2:00PM Tuesday January 27, 2009 Source: Reuters

The glamorous principality of Monaco is home to millionaires, celebrities and one of the worst rugby teams in Europe.

Monaco has a national side, created 10 years ago, who are battling it out with fellow minnows Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Cyprus and Slovakia in the obscure Pool 3-D of the European Nations Cup.

They have no ground, no coach, no professional player and, most embarrassingly, no Monaco citizen, which means they often end up losing on appeal the rare matches they do win on the pitch.

"As we don't have any player eligible to play for Monaco, our opponents often lodge protests and end up being awarded victory," Monaco prop Matthieu Louppe said.

Second from bottom in their group, Monaco are looking forward to hosting Azerbaijan on Saturday.

Former France captain Jean-Francois Tordo, who lives nearby, has agreed to give them some much-needed coaching advice for the game.

Ski Instructor

As they are not allowed to ruin the soccer pitch of Monaco's Louis-II stadium, the side train and play their home matches on various grounds in French cities near the principality.

The team is made up mostly of players from the Monaco and nearby Menton clubs, who are used to facing each other in a low-key regional league.

One is South African, another is Moroccan. There is also a Canadian ski instructor and a British oil trader.

"When we're on the field, we're all equal, all proud of our brand of rugby, of our colours and of our anthem," Louppe said.

Their first pool match in the current campaign was against Bosnia and the team were looking forward to thrashing guests worn out by a 30-hour coach ride.

"We thought it would be a piece of cake but we didn't get a look-in and lost 50-5," Louppe recalled.

"Good job they didn't come by plane."

Three Years

Then came a trip to Cyprus. The Monaco players were brimming with confidence but soon realised their opponents all came from a British military base and could really play the game.

The visitors lost 22-3.

"They're British but they are immediately eligible to play for Cyprus," grumbled Louppe, a Monaco resident waiting for citizenship.

"We have to wait for three years."

Monaco rugby, Louppe said, had little to do with the famous French flair.

"We're miles away from French rugby here," he said.

"We're a makeshift team with plenty of passion that holds us together. We're rugby extremists."

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