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21st Jun 2022

Romain Ntamack defended after social media backlash to changing room footage

Patrick McCarry

“I don’t understand this meanness.”

Romain Ntamack has played a staggering 32 times for club and country, this season. He started 30 of those games, scored 10 tries, logged 2,380 minutes, reached two semis with Toulouse and helped France to a Grand Slam.

He would have so dearly loved that 33rd game.

On Friday night, the outhalf’s season ended with a 24-18 defeat to Castres in the Top 14 semi-finals. The 23-year-old had 10 carries, for 100 metres, and scored a stunning second half try to put his side right back into a mighty battle.

Romain Ntamack exit broadcast on live TV

Unfortunately for the defending Top 14 champions, fullback Thomas Ramos missed the resulting conversion and a later penalty. Toulouse were still in the fight, though, even after they conceded a 76th minute Julien Dumora try.

Last season’s Top 14 and Champions Cup kingpins had one last bite of the cherry but there was a knock-on after the 80th minute and that was the end of their season.

As many of the dejected Toulouse players stayed out on the pitch to console each other, and wish the Castres lads well, TV cameras caught Romain Ntamack stalking into the dressing room, alone. He exchanged a few words with a member of the backroom staff before sitting and taking in what was a tough loss.

French journalist defends Romain Ntamack

Clips of Romain Ntamack making an immediate dash to the Toulouse dressing rooms after his side’s defeat, and while many of his teammates stayed on the pitch to congratulate Castres, went viral across social media in France.

The France No.10 copped a barrage of criticism, from certain quarters, for what some felt was bad sportsmanship.

However, Midi Olympique journalist Nicolas Zanardi has stood up for Ntamack and came out firing against his detractors. Zanardi says he cannot understand the “hatred” of Ntamack for the lapse of ‘going back to the locker room to hide, and mourn his disappointment’. He stated:

“I don’t understand what anyone can blame this boy for. He played three minutes in the 2019 final and he didn’t play last year’s final. He is sad, he wants to hide his disappointment… and we jump on him because he did not go to greet supporters or shake hands with opponents. What would it have been like if he had gone to take selfies with the supporters?

“I don’t understand this meanness. You must never have set foot on the ground not to understand what it can feel like. People only see what’s on TV. Ntamack came out [soon after], he shook hands with everyone, he took pictures with everyone. I don’t understand how we can be so mean because we hurt the players… It’s pathetic! I have no other words. People should think before they write because they can hurt, and it sucks.

“I have the impression that in the eyes of the spectators who never go to the stadium, that players are robots who can be criticised for everything and for nothing. The players are men, and they forget that.”

For Romain Ntamack and many of his Toulouse teammates, that Castres game was the premature finish line in their 2021/22 season.

France coach Fabien Galthie, with the 2023 World Cup in mind, has opted to rest many of his star players – such as Ntamack, Antoine Dupont, Gregor Alldritt and Julien Marchand – for a two-match Test Series away to Japan.

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