How to become a professional rugby player

As in many other sports, becoming a professional rugby player requires a lot of attributes, not all of them sports-related.


Many young rugby players dream of turning professional and playing in France and Europe’s leading club competitions or even of playing for France one day. It takes a lot of work to make such dreams come true, however. We take a look at the various steps a player has to take to become a professional rugby player and how the French rugby system works. 


France's two professional championships (Top 14 and Pro D2) are run by the National Rugby League (LNR).The clubs that play in these championships have academies that train young rugby players with the aim of preparing them for the highest level. These academies are elite training centres that closely monitor players in terms of their sporting and educational development. They receive specific training as well as their regular weekly sessions. The programmes they work on involve the development of their skills, weight training and individual fitness training.

Players generally start attending these academies at the age of 16, having previously been spotted playing for representative youth teams and in club matches. There are only a few places on offer at these academies. In developing youngsters, clubs hope to turn them into elite professional players over a three- to four-year period. These academies work closely with local schools to ensure that young players can continue with their studies.



Youth training centres are run by the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and form part of educational establishments. These centres play a key part in developing players. Students, who are also called "trainees", are part of a project  oriented towards their education and their development as rugby players. They undergo specific training programmes that make up an individual development plan. Many of the players are with elite clubs, which gives them the chance to play with the best at weekends. In attending youth training centres, they have a better chance of eventually gaining a place at an academy run by a professional club. 

The France training centre is even more selective. It is open to U-20 players. Run by the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis, it has been decentralised since the 2017/18 season, with players attending club academies. National team coaches monitor the progress of the players who emerge from the training centre. They organise three meetings a year at clubs and are responsible for their development and the amount of playing time they have. A set of very clear objectives need to be set down in terms of the players' individual development. National team coaches do have the opportunity to coach the players at Marcoussis or abroad during international competitions (6 Nations and the World Cup).

You now know how to become a professional rugby player, by gaining a placein the national training system and/or private training centre networks.

In making their way through the system, players are also required to devote themselves to their studies.

It should be remembered, however, that rugby schools (through to the age of 14) remain the bedrock of any budding star's rugby education.