French connection claims first victory at World shears

A small band of committed French enthusiasts has scored the first win of the 2017 World shearing and woolhandling championships in Invercargill by winning a bid to stage the next championships in France in two years' time.

Following Northern Ireland's withdrawal, France was the only applicant at today's meeting of the Golden Shears World Council on the first-day of the current championships in ILT Stadium Southland, the southernmost venue used for the event since it was first held in England in 1977.

The next championships will be held in a 2500-seat marquee set-up on two soccer fields in the Central France town of Le Dorat on July 1-7, 2019, steering committee head Christophe Riffaud said.

The application was presented today by Mr Riffaud, who is from Le Dorat, France championships machine shearing representative Loic Leygonie, of Martel, and Julie Renard, of Limoges, with the help of France Ambassador to New Zealand Florence Jeanblanc-Risler, who is in Invercargill for the championships.

France becomes the 9th country to host the championships after England, New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Ireland, South Africa, Scotland and Norway.

With a sheep population of about 6 million, it has been a recent mover in shearing competition, highlighted by shearers Thimoleon Resneau and Daniel Boillot reaching the teams final at the 2012 World Championships in Masterton, NZ, and last year when Leygonie, Riffaud and Resneau were third in the Six-Nations Shearing Championship at the Royal Bath and West Show in England.

It was when France held the Six-Nations at Le Dorat in 2013 that the idea of staging a World Championships in the area was born.

"It was a really good weekend," said Leygonie. "Everybody was very happy, but they wanted to do something bigger. The next thing was the World Championships."

After investigating the idea, the enthusiasts formed a project committee in late 2015 and have since worked on developing partnerships needed to make it a reality.

"France is not a country where everybody knows a lot about shearing," he said. "So we did a lot of shearing demonstrations to get people interested in the project."

There hadn't been a lot of New Zealanders shearing in the area, but one who was Te Kuiti's Jack Fagan, son of shearing icon Sir David Fagan, and both had helped, he said.

Pictured left to right are Loic Leygonie, Julie Renard and Christophe Riffaud celebrating France's success in winning the right to stage the 2019 World shearing and woolhandling championships in Le Dorat, Central France, on July 1-7, 2019.


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