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HEC Paris converts the try with Natixis-Groupe BPCE and launches the first international mixed student rugby tournament

While France and the world have been buzzing since September for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, HEC Paris and Natixis organized the same weekend as the grand final between New Zealand and South Africa the first international mixed student rugby tournament, the HEC-Natixis Mixed Rugby Nations Cup, from October 27 to 29. 250 French and international students faced off on the lawns of the Natixis Rugby Stadium on the HEC campus, in an unprecedented competition that shattered preconceived ideas about rugby and anchored this strategic partnership in the long term and in the shared values of sport.

Students on a rugby field at HEC Paris

8 écoles, 4 pays, 3 jours de compétition autour d’une même passion : le rugby 

(c) Chloé Bizot

Auteur/Author of this article: Frédéric Voirin

"It's wonderful to see that you all come from different universities and smile together". With these words, Antonie Claassen, former international professional rugby player, ex-openside flanker of Racing 92 and recent 2023 graduate of HEC Paris' Executive MBA Leading Data Transformation program, sums up both the challenge of this unprecedented mixed sports event and the euphoria on the faces of those present at the inaugural evening on this Friday evening in HEC Paris' Amphitheater Bellon.  

After signing a partnership agreement in September 2022 to develop the school's sports facilities and organize a first test tournament, HEC Paris is now taking the next step with Natixis, Groupe BPCE's global financial services brand, by launching the first international student mixed rugby tournament.

 

First international mixed student rugby tournament in the world

Under the patronage of former rugby player Antonie Claassen and international 7-a-side rugby players Séraphine Okemba and Chloé Pelle, 8 schools took part in this unique event. For this first international edition, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Imperial College London, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, University of Manchester, ESCP Business School Paris, ENSTA/ENSAE Palaiseau, EM Lyon and of course HEC Paris were all present on the lakeside lawns of the Jouy-en-Josas campus.

About 250 students from 4 different countries came together for 3 days of competition, in a single team spirit, as part of the Rugby World Cup 2023 organized in France, which reached its epilogue a few kilometers away at the Stade de France.

HEC Natixis Rugby Cup Opening Ceremony with HEC and international students

Les 250 étudiants et étudiantes auprès des équipes de Natixis, Groupe BPCE et HEC Paris 

(c) Chloé Bizot

"This sport is very similar to classic rugby, but this tournament is played by women's sevens, men's sevens and mixed five-a-side teams", explains Thomas Laudy, rugby coach at HEC Paris and tournament coordinator. Rugby touch differs from the original format by replacing tackles and shocks with strategic touches on the opponent. According to the French Rugby Federation, this form of the game aims to "encourage information gathering, decision-making, avoidance and support work".

 

" This sport is very similar to classic rugby, but for this tournament it is played by mixed teams of five men and women "

 

And the students, mainly from France, but also from Switzerland, the UK and Spain, put in a great deal of strategic support on the HEC Paris rugby pitches over this rainy weekend at the end of October. Far from being discouraged by the cold, the downpours and the mud, all the participants in this unprecedented tournament kept their spirits high throughout the event. Similarly, an inter-university esprit de corps was palpable from start to finish, when the chants of supporters during the matches gave way to warm collective thank-you emails from each team.

 

A tournament that shatters prejudice against rugby and promotes women's sport

The young women of FHR, the women's rugby club at HEC Paris and co-organizers of this tournament with the HEC men's rugby club, have shown from the outset that they have nothing to envy from their male counterparts. The FHR president sums up the impressive performance of women's rugby at HEC: "We've won the French Cup four times, and in 2021 we celebrated our 20th anniversary by winning the inter-university championship in Rome". This kind of success is still rare, but it shatters prejudice against a sport that is often considered violent and macho, and in which French sportswomen have struggled to carve out a place for themselves for almost 100 years.

On his side, between two images of Paris 2024's future ceremony on La Seine, Groupe BPCE's Olympic and Paralympic Games Director, Benoît Gausseron, deftly reminds us that women's and men's 7-a-side rugby will indeed be given pride of place at the heart of France's largest stadium for the next Olympics. Lucid, he also points out that "there's a real issue of representation for women in sports. We need to promote and publicize female role models. This event on HEC Paris campus is a fine example to follow for gender diversity in sport".

HEC female students playing rugby on Campus

Les joueuses des clubs féminins de rugby en plein effort 

(c) Chloé Bizot

Aligned, Cécile Tricon Bossard, Director of Human Resources and member of the Natixis General Management Committee, made a point of asserting her feminist commitment on a day-to-day basis, in front of a packed auditorium about to watch the match for the 3rd place between England and Argentina: "We wanted mixed teams, just as we do in our work at the company, where we fight against the glass ceiling every day. Today, I'm passing on a fundamental message to all women: dare to embrace a career in finance and be ambitious".

" This event on HEC Paris' campus is a fine example to follow for gender diversity in sport "

 

In the end, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne took first place in this mixed tournament. The University of Manchester won both men's and women's tournaments (thanks to a last-minute try) and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid was rewarded for their fair play. All the winning teams were given Racing 92 jerseys and a ball signed by the club's players, whom Natixis has been a partner for over 15 years.  

But the greatest victory for HEC students remains a human one, as vice-president of the FHR Elia Boulangé testifies: "In the end, the most memorable moment of the tournament was not a 'rugby' moment, but rather the time we spent together after the matches, having dinner and parties".

 

A stronger partnership based on shared human values between sport and business

Breaking down the daily opposition between men and women, this tournament proves the strength of the alliance between men's and women's teams. At the presentation of the 8 teams in this tournament, the captains were both male and female.  

Similarly, on the pitch, the strength of each team lay in its collective commitment, regardless of gender and around values centered on sporting effort, mental strength, overcoming and the commitment of a genuine community of support. Elia Boulangé and Mathieu Gauvin, M1 students in HEC's men's and women's rugby clubs, and president of the student charity Des piliers pour avancer, shared the same sense of satisfaction: "The mixed touch tournament was a great way for students to bond. Despite a lot of rain, the atmosphere was great, and it was clear that all the players enjoyed playing this new type of game."

HEC students and a rugby coach on Campus

Au-delà d’un tournoi sportif, c’est avant tout de l’humain dont il est question 

(c) Chloé Bizot

As an official sponsor of this tournament, Natixis - some of whose staff members were attending matches to support HEC students - also defends strong human values that can be transcribed both on a sports field and in corporate life. Begun in 2018 with the "Business Analytics for Future Banking" international teaching and research chair around data experts in the banking sector, the HEC-Natixis strategic alliance is as natural as ever at this sporting tournament. Indeed, the 2 organizations continue to unite around shared values such as team spirit, loyalty, day-to-day commitment and the desire to go the extra mile. As Nicolas Namias, Chairman of the Management Board of BPCE, says with conviction: "As with everything in life, you must always commit yourself in the long term." 

Cécile Tricon Bossard, Director of Human Resources and member of the General Management Committee at Natixis, is equally enthusiastic: "There's a very strong bond between Natixis and rugby. It's a real partnership of passion. Similarly, our relationship with HEC is not just about a name on a stadium, it's above all about people."

 

" The Natixis-HEC Paris relationship isn't just about a name on a stadium, it's all about people "

 

 

After having put the spotlight on handisport alongside Tony Estanguet, President of the Organizing Committee of Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, HEC Paris is continuing to shatter preconceived ideas and pursue its commitment to inclusive sport by consolidating this partnership with Natixis around mixed rugby, which will bring a new edition of the HEC-Natixis Mixed Rugby Nations Cup in 2024. Finally, Europe's leading business school will soon be hosting training sessions for the French women's Olympic 7-a-side rugby team, as well as the 2024 Coupe de France étudiante des écoles supérieures de commerce on April 6 and 7, and continue its historic commitment to Natixis-Groupe BPCE, which aims to become France's number one sports bank.

 

Discover more about the Chair Natixis - HEC Paris