Les Gaillards club president Vianney Mosser lifts the Bingham Cup, watched by club co-founder Cyril Leroy. | Image via Les Gaillards

It was a bumpy ride for many of those aboard the 11th Bingham Cup but by its conclusion, it was Les Gaillards who had taken their game to the next level.

The Paris club were crowned champions of one of the world’s biggest LGBTQ sports tournaments, for the first time in their history.

Across four frenetic days of rugby in Rome, there were highs and lows, plenty of bears on the beers, and a fair few headaches for the organizers.

Ultimately, a 27-7 victory over five-time winners the Sydney Convicts in the men’s top-tier final produced a champagne moment for the French.

For Les Gaillards president Vianney Mosser, it’s a hugely proud moment. 

They formed back in 2003 but didn’t compete as a club in a Bingham Cup until Amsterdam 2018. They have grown significantly in recent years and had three teams competing across the four men’s tiers, plus a women’s side.

“This is the biggest tournament in the world for rugby players who aren’t professional,” Mosser told Outsports.

“We’ve been preparing since last September and around 30 of our 75 players had never played rugby before that. 

“So this is a great recognition of our work.”

On social media, there was plenty of goodwill shown towards Les Gaillards who have made a significant contribution to the IGR movement over the last two decades.

However, some rugby die-hards felt the outcome was controversial as the French clubs do not contest scrums in their matches, which Mosser explains is due to insurance regulations imposed upon them in international tournaments.

As a result, their teams take to the field a player down.

“We try to play very fast, very aggressive, because we know that we have to play the match with 14 players and not 15 — it’s a problem for us,” he said.

Yet their first team made it all the way through the elite bracket. “The most difficult match we played was the quarterfinal against our friends, Toulouse Touwin. 

“But by the time we came to the final, there was a very confident mood about our players.

“During the first half, we were always in Sydney’s half of the pitch and that’s our type of game.”

Keeping everyone happy was a daunting task for tournament hosts Libera Rugby and local organizers, as over 3,000 participants and spectators descended on Rome.

Unreliable shuttle buses, poor quality pitches and unexpected schedule changes were among the issues raised.

But there were good vibes too, such as those that surrounded Sunday’s successful all-trans match which attracted a crowd of around 4,000 spectators.

“This game was very important, to show that everyone can play rugby,” added Mosser. “We can all make more efforts on this.”

That match, the Bingham Cup final and the Amanda Mark Cup women’s final — in which the Amsterdam Lowlanders triumphed over the Ottawa Wolves — were live-streamed around the world, with Nick Heath on commentary duties.

The next edition of the tournament is due to be held in either Brisbane or Buenos Aires in 2026.

Now that Les Gaillards have a title, could they look to host in Paris in the future?

“Not officially!” laughs Mosser. “Of course, we might have the temptation to propose a bid for 2028 but let’s be honest, it’s very big to organize and I don’t know if we have all the logistics in Paris.”

A more likely scenario, he says, is a bid to host the Union Cup, which is the IGR’s continental tournament for European clubs. Next year’s will be in Oslo.

Les Gaillards will be there, but for now, it’s all about celebrating their victory in Rome. Mosser is keen to mention the symbolism of 9/11 hero Mark Bingham’s name being engraved on the trophy. 

Players from the first team of Les Gaillards celebrate their Bingham Cup triumph | Image via Les Gaillards

“As a gay rugby player, Mark was with the San Francisco Fog and helped set up the Gotham Knights, and we’re all part of the history he created.

“It was always just a dream for us to win this tournament in his name — and now we’ve done it.”

For all the results from the Bingham Cup 2024 in Rome, click here.