Julia Poe is a senior writing about her personal connection to sports. Her column, “Poe’s Perspective,” runs weekly on Thursdays. The annual clash between these two powerhouse rivals is something to celebrate for a college basketball fan. Year in and year out, it’s a consistent event that eclipses any season records or Top-25 rankings. It really doesn’t matter if North Carolina is on track to another national championship, or if Duke has a fleet of freshman monsters like forward Zion Williamson. In any given year, on any given rivalry day, both teams have an equal chance of beating the other. Mrs. O’Neill was a bit of an outlier — her room was basically bathed in crimson and blue from October to March every single year — but that question was a fairly common icebreaker asked in classrooms from first grade on. Where I grew up, our teams were an intrinsic aspect of our identities. We split up by them to play dodgeball in elementary school gym class and wore jerseys for a day of spirit week in high school. Cheering for one of those three colleges — which most of my graduating class ended up attending — was so important that I can still remember, to this day, the college allegiances of almost all of the 70 kids in my grade at elementary school. I was hoping for this type of energy, this type of generations-old hatred, when I came to college. I had heard enough tales spun about the bad blood between UCLA and USC, and after watching two teams sharing a state battle it out in Kansas vs. Kansas State, I was ready to see just how much living in the same city upped the ante. After all, I was told that the two schools hated each other — enough to duct tape the statues on campus for rivalry week, enough to burn a bonfire yards high to simulate burning each other’s mascots. I thought I was signing up for a new type of sports-induced hatred and when I got to campus, I was ready to bask in it. But in my four years at USC, I’ve come to understand that the USC vs. UCLA rivalry, despite all the trash talk and traditions, is in the second tier of sports rivalries. It brings a dull consistency, for sure, a Saturday each football season to circle in order to properly plan for a tailgate. But the actual ferocity of the fandom isn’t at the same level as other schools or other teams, and that lack of fire has left me feeling somewhat left out, as I watch friends around the country bask in their senior years of rivalries. In the end, it doesn’t really matter why this rivalry hasn’t been all that compelling in recent years. The point still stands that our rivalry is second-rate at best, relegated to noon kick-off times and repeated as half-hearted jokes by professors. As my senior year comes to a close, I couldn’t help feeling a little jealous settling in for a true rivalry game like Duke and North Carolina, wondering what could have been, if USC hated UCLA just a little bit more. I don’t really have an answer to this question. Maybe it’s because those two schools are sequestered in a semi-rural area of North Carolina, with less to do than a bunch of college kids plopped in the dead center of one of the largest cities in the world. Maybe it’s because Duke and North Carolina have kept winning year after year with seasoned, Hall of Fame coaches at the helm, while USC and UCLA have watched their football and basketball teams flounder. Or maybe it’s because we’re both too focused on different sports — UCLA on basketball, USC on football — to breed a rivalry, since we never meet on common ground. So it’s different for state schools like Kansas and K-State, or Nebraska and Iowa. Blame it on the overabundance of wheat and corn fields and the lack of things to do; blame it on small-town ideals (even though I grew up in the suburbs) or the fact that the Midwest is obsessed with basketball. But that still doesn’t explain the ferocity of a rivalry like Duke and North Carolina, two schools that are as academically competitive as USC and UCLA, yet still hate each other much, much more. It’s hard to put a finger on the exact reason that the USC vs. UCLA rivalry feels lesser, but a lot of a it comes from where I grew up. When I was in third grade, my teacher (what’s up, Mrs. O’Neill?) went around the room at the start of one week and asked each of us who we cheered for — KU, K-State or Mizzou. She then rearranged the seating chart to put the KU fans in the front rows of the classroom, the K-State fans in the middle and the Mizzou kids in the very back for the rest of the week. We were 8 freaking years old. I grew up on this type of rivalry. It didn’t matter if it was Chiefs against Raiders or Kansas playing Mizzou; all of my teams hated the hell out of someone else, guaranteeing at least two great rivalry games per season. The beauty of one of these contests was only exacerbated by circumstances — the David and Goliath odds of my (often weaker) team facing a powerhouse or the thrill of watching a sub-zero game played outdoors. Wednesday night played host to one of the Christmas-like holidays of the NCAA men’s basketball season — UNC vs. Duke Part I, the first half of one of the most hate-filled, violently competitive games of the year.
Fofana and skipper Guilhem Guirado are joined in the lineup by Louis Picamoles, Morgan Parra, Yoann Huget and Maxime Medard, with the latter duo both coming into the Six Nations on the back of strong form at club level.For the time being at least, therefore, there will be plenty of familiar names in France’s team, but that may not be the case for much longer.With the exception of Stade Rochelle back Geoffrey Doumayrou, who is 29, all of Brunel’s replacements for the Wales game are 25 or younger, with 20-year-old prop Demba Bamba the youngest of them and the likes of Baptiste Serin (24), Gael Fickou (24) and Julien Marchand (23) also set to earn some game time on Friday.In addition, there are several more youngsters in France’s 31-man squad, all ready to be called upon should injuries or poor form bring about changes.Uncapped fullback Thomas Ramos (23), halves Anthony Belleau and Antoine Dupont (both 22), and forwards Pierre Bourgarit (21), Fabien Sanconnie (23) and Yacouba Camara (24) represent youthful options outside of Brunel’s initial 23-man selection for the Wales fixture.And given France’s string of poor results in recent times, few of the more established names can consider their places truly safe, particularly with hopes high for a new generation – including Ntamack – that secured glory at the Under-20 World Cup last June.Tel père.Tel fils.#NeFaisonsXV pic.twitter.com/FUhhaXpEA5— FF Rugby (@FFRugby) January 9, 2019The Six Nations is understandably Brunel’s primary focus at present as France looks to improve on a fourth-place finish in 2018, when it did at least run Grand Slam winner Ireland closer than anyone before being sunk by a last-gasp drop goal from Johnny Sexton.Yet it would be no surprise if further members of the successful U20 team, not currently in France’s senior squad, are pushing for caps by the time the Rugby World Cup comes around in September. Romain Ntamack’s selection has caught the eye ahead of France’s opening Six Nations fixture, but the 19-year-old is only one of a host of young stars who could be given a chance to shine by Jacques Brunel over the coming weeks and months.The youngest player in the championship and son of former Les Blues wing Emile, Ntamack will start at center alongside the vastly experienced Wesley Fofana when France host Wales on Friday night. One name to watch is Jordan Joseph, who starred in that U20 World Cup campaign at the age of 17. The 2019 RWC might come just too soon for the Racing 92 No. 8 who is considered one of the most talented teenagers in world rugby.Regardless of whether Joseph breaks through in the near future, it is clear France has no shortage of options when it comes to young talent.As Guirado, Picamoles, Huget and Medard gear up for what is likely to be their final tilt at a world title, it feels like the next crop of French stars are poised to emerge. Ntamack has been picked ahead of Mathieu Bastareaud, a move that suggests Brunel is eager to refresh a team that lost eight of its 11 Tests in 2018.However, while Bastareaud has not even made the matchday 23 on this occasion, the other six members of the 30-and-over brigade in France’s squad will all start against Wales. Related News Six Nations 2019: Team-by-team guide