Arles Sur Tech is a tiny village, set in a scenic forested valley, in the eastern foothills of the pyrenees, where catalan and French are spoken.
It is less than one hours drive from the Spanish border, a journey which has a major relevance to one of its inhabitants, France captain Guilhem Guirado.
In stature and appearance, he is exactly how you would imagine a French hooker to look like.
At 5ft 11ins and 15 stone 8lbs, he is as tough and solid as the local Pyrenean Boulders on the field, and as calm and gentle as the meandering river tech off it.
A private man who puts his love of his family above all else, his grandparents were part of the 500,000 Spanish exodus, that fled the violence of the Spanish Civil War, and crossed the Pyrenees with the one sole aim of finding refuge in France.
His parents were born in Granada, and were only five years old when they arrived in France with almost nothing to their name.
“Until I was 15 all I knew was this village where my grandparents had arrived, my favourite memories are from here, I loved being that age, it is here everything really started for me and I found a passion for rugby”
Guilhem is a man who knows where he is, and more importantly where he has come from.
I first met him at the RBS 6 nations launch in 2016, after he had just been revealed as the new France captain, he stood out as a man at peace with himself taking everything in his stride in a calm and measured manner.
“To know where you want to go you need to know about where you came from and the determination that went before” he says philosophically, and when you delve into his family history you get a sense of where that inner strength has come from.
“What I like about rugby is the direct confrontation with an opponent a physical contest and collisions tackles”
But when he gets home he puts his bag down and rugby is finished
“The most important thing for me is my family and the people who are around me, whether my parents, grandparents wife or daughter”.
“It’s my stability it’s something that allows me to put things into perspective, to be able to relax and see life in a different way, I’m not only thinking about rugby and that allows me to perform well on the field”
“I don’t have a specific style it is mainly a feeling, a lot of conversations and a lot of questioning, and the captain is nothing without the players around him”
“It is a great pride, a huge honour for all that it means for me and for France”
WEARING THE FRENCH JERSEY
“I think it’s always an honour to play for and represent France, everything goes more quickly and it is a bit stressful because of the fear of not being up to the mark, you want your family to be proud of you”
“I like to know what has happened in the past and immerse myself in it because I also have to represent all the former players, there have been some huge players, and great hookers who have gone before me”
“For me this shirt really represents the welcome given to the Spanish exiles, I am French I grew up in France, it is a country that was ready to welcome to my grandparents so of course I think of them”
“My first memory is the first time I played rugby, it was with all my friends in Arles sur tech, and the most beautiful thing is we all got to know each other on the rugby field, and today we are still sharing our lives and great moments together”
“I have been lucky to be able to play for my club that made me dream when I was a kid, the Perpignan team USAP, and finally to be able to play with France a few years later, and now to play with RC Toulon with the best players in the oval world”
He won his first cap on 9 March 2008 , coming off the bench against Italy at the stade de france in a 25-13 victory “I remember my first cap, a special taste, I remember it like it was yesterday”
His first start for France came in the 2010 autumn international against Fiji.
The recently sacked France coach Guy Noves spoke publically of his desire to keep the “Toulon Talonneur”as skipper for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The new incumbent Jacques Brunel was coach of Perpignan when they won the French league some years ago, wearing the number 2 shirt through that campaign was none other than Guilhem Guirado, so he too is well aware of leadership qualities the man himself possesses.
Whatever happens you sense that Guilhem will take it all in his stride, his mother says “He must never forget where he is from, it is his strength” and as we all know, mothers are usually right.