France great Parra calls time on glittering career

Former France scrum-half Morgan Parra has announced he is set to retire at the end of the current season after 17 years playing for club and country.

Former France scrum-half Morgan Parra has announced he is set to retire at the end of the current season after 17 years playing for club and country.

Parra, who earned 71 caps for Les Bleus, began his career at Bourgoin, before a 13-year spell at ASM Clermont Auvergne which came to an end last season, when he joined Stade Français.

Le Petit General, as he is affectionately known in France, won a Grand Slam in 2010, a year before Les Bleus reached the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final, as well as winning the Top 14 twice, and playing a key role in Clermont’s 2019 European Challenge Cup.

A three-time Heineken Champions Cup finalist, Parra undoubtedly goes down as one of the greats of not just French rugby but of the modern era.

After three years at Bourgoin, Parra got his move to European heavyweights Clermont, replacing France international Pierre Mignoni after he became the latest Galactico to join Toulon in 2009.

Parra had made his own Test bow the previous year at the age of just 19 in the 2009 Championship, coming on as a replacement against Scotland.

He quickly struck up an excellent partnership with Brock James at the Stade Marcel Michelin and earned his spot in the France starting XV, where he starred in a youthful half-back pairing with then Montpellier fly-half François Trinh-Duc under Marc Lièvremont.

There, he won the Grand Slam in only his second full Championship, finishing the Championship as the second-top points scorer with 61, on his way to 370 total points for country over an 11-year period.

In that year, he also starred at club level, as Clermont sealed the Top 14 title for the very first time, with 11 points coming from the boot of Parra in a 19-6 win over Perpignan in the final. Despite his tender age, he was a key figure in Clermont finally getting over the line having lost their previous ten finals.

He featured in all seven matches of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which saw France bounce back from defeats against New Zealand and Tonga in the group stages to beat England and Wales and get Les Bleus into the World Cup Final.

That proved to be a disappointing evening for Parra, who was forced off injured after 27 minutes, as France lost a tight final 8-7.

He would go on to play at Test level for another eight years, seeing him involved in the 2015 World Cup, before going three years without a cap and the last of his 71 caps came in the 2019 Championship, in a 44-8 defeat to England at Twickenham.

He continued to be a huge presence at club level though, winning his second Top 14 title in 2017, before ending the club’s 12-year European drought in the 2019 Challenge Cup final win over La Rochelle in Newcastle.

He left Clermont as a legend at the end of last season to join Stade Français, after 300 appearances in which he scored 2,301 points in the famous yellow colours of the Auvergne-based side.

That leaves him with one final shot at a third Top 14 title, with the club currently in third place and looking at the play-offs.

On his retirement, Parra said to L’Equipe: “You have to know when to stop, I didn’t want to play one season too many and play in a year when you are no longer enjoying it.

“I injured my knee at the beginning of the season and then again in March, I would like to play all my life, but the fundamental question is: “Will I still be able to play?”

“I always told myself that I would stop in 2022 at the end of my deal my with Clermont.

“I’m ready. It’s the right time, this new adventure with the staff of Laurent (Labit) and Karim (Ghezal) also comes at the right time.”

Parra will join the coaching staff at Stade Français where he will work as an assistant under current France assistants Laurent Labit and Karim Ghezal, who will take charge of the club following the World Cup.