Okoun (Thanks) Michel !

The Kampuchea Balopp team is sad to say Goodbye to Michel Morlaas, a French rugby coach who has rugby flowing through his veins and has helped us during the past 6 weeks, sharing his rugby passion with the kids, and advising our Khmer coaches during his stay.

Michel, “Michou” as he likes to be called, is not only a rugby coach but is a special man and was a champions of France with the SU Agen team in 1976, and held the record for the number of tries scored in the 1st French division (148 tries)! Michels background is outlined below:

Born in 1949 in Salies de Bearn, South of France, Michel Morlaas started playing rugby at the age of 12 in his home town where he played for 3 years. When he was 15 years old, Michel was already playing with the Senior team of Orthez, in the French 2nd division, and at 16 years old, the recruiters of the SU Agen saw him during a very important game when Orthez played against Oloron Sainte Marie. He didn’t know it yet , but this game would change his life.

His Player career:

When Michel turned 16 years old, in 1965, he signed with the prestigious club of SU Agen, and played all season with the A Senior team. He is still the youngest player in their history to play in the Senior 1st division championship.

This precocity gave him the nickname “Petit Cadet” (“Petit” mean small, “Cadet” is the name of the Under 17 Age group division). He kept this nickname all of his playing career.

When Kampuchea Balopp asked Michel what are the two best memories of his player career, he answered:
“The best memories were during the 2 first years when I played with Agen. All the players were waiting and trying hard for me to get me the ball so I could score a try. Without those “gifts” I would never become the player with the best statistics of tries scored in the history of French championship. My 2nd best memory is when I won the Bouclier de Brennus, Champions of France with SU Agen in 1976. At this time, Beziers was the dominating French rugby and this victory was fantastic. “

His Coach Career:
In 1976, Michel Morlaas start his coaching career; he wanted to discover “amateur rugby” and decided to go with a smaller club. He signed for Limoges (3rd division) as a ” player- coach” and became the youngest rugby senior coach in French rugby History, at 27 years old. Two years later, Limoges was in 1st division, thanks to his involvement.

In 1982, he continued to move to another small club when he signed with Saint Yriex La Perche (5th division) and achieved the the same success: three years later Saint yriex were in 2nd Division. He remembered a game, when, in 1985, he played against his old club of Limoges in the 2nd division, and his team beat Limoges on the field of Limoges, a fantastic memory!

After a few years more as a coach of St Yriex and St Junien, Michel decided to move to Italy in 1991, and without knowing it, started a new important chapter in his life. He became the coach of Rome (1st division) and within three years and his his love for small clubs, moved to Sandrio (3rd division). His mission was to promote rugby within the schools of all the province of Sandrio, to train new Italian coaches, and to coach the senior team. In his his 3rd year in Sangrio, he focused only on the Grassroots Development. Thanks to his work, the number of kids playing in Sangrio grew three fold.

Michel Morlaas has continued to help some clubs in Italy and in France until this day. He is now the coach of Saint Leonard (5th division). His philosophy is to make sure that the kids from the rugby schools learn the same rugby as it is played by the senior teams, the same “game system”. For him it is very important that the players of the club, whatever their age, are made to feel like they belong to the same family. That’s why, every Sunday morning, he organized a “muscle wake-up” with all the club members made welcome to attend. Sometimes, they had more than 150 participants, from the age of6 to 30 years old, all mixed and getting involved.

His experience with Kampuchea Balopp:
“I was very surprised to see all the kids played with so much energy and happiness, in France the kids don’t have the same smile when they arrive on the field! But, the biggest surprise was to see the level of Khmer rugby coaches, I can tell you, a lot of Rugby Schools in France would dream to have coaches like them!”

“Now the most important things is to make sure that we provide a future to those kids as rugby players. It’s good to give the opportunity to those kids to play rugby, but when they become adults and there are not enough seniors clubs around, it will be a shame. We want to see all those kids play later in a senior team, and why not in the national team, THAT will be a fantastic achievement for Kampuchea Balopp and for their coaches”.

Kampuchea Balopp would like to thank Michel for his invaluable time and commitment while he worked with us and helped develop the coaches and brought new ideas. Thank you Michel!

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