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Paris attacks: France and rugby will bounce back from atrocities, vows former Ulster star Wannenburg

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 16/11/2015

Old boy: Pedrie Wannenburg in the colours of Ulster before his switch to Oyonnax
Old boy: Pedrie Wannenburg in the colours of Ulster before his switch to Oyonnax
Act of remembrance: Ulster fans who travelled to France leave a flag for Paris at Oyonnax

Oyonnax's former Ulster back-rower Pedrie Wannenburg has vowed that France will return to normality as quickly as possible following last Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris.

After all Champions Cup games scheduled in France, including Ulster's trip to Oyonnax, were postponed over the weekend as part of three days of mourning called for by President Hollande, the 34-year-old former Springbok feels it's important to minimise the disruption craved by the perpetrators of the atrocities.

"It is quite shocking," said the man who is in his fourth season across the Channel having left Ulster for Castres following the Heineken Cup final defeat of 2012.

"We watched it yesterday in the news. The second time in ten months for Paris (after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January), it's obviously terribly sad for all of France but especially for Paris.

"For people and for rugby it's important that we keep going. That we show that these people can't stop us," the South African added.

"People died so let's make sure we think of them rather than the game of rugby for a while, people's lives has been changed forever, but soon we'll be back and show terrorists that we go on."

While backing the EPCR'S decision to call off his side's contest against his former employers, Wannenburg admitted that it was especially disappointing to see a game he had eagerly anticipated since the summer's pool draw fall by the wayside.

"It was obviously frustrating. I had been really looking forward to playing against Ulster and to going to see the guys afterwards," the back-rower said.

"We'll play again, as well as going back to Belfast, so we'll do it again."

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While Ulster's players were on the team bus outside their hotel when the news of the postponement was relayed, Oyonnax's squad had already made their way to the Stade Charles Mathon when the decision came an hour and a half before kick-off, instead holding an impromptu training session.

"It was only when we arrived at the stadium that we realised the game might not be played," said Wannenburg.

"Everyone was strapped up and ready to play but we were told just as we were going to warm-up.

"It's not nice, now we just have to find time to get the game in."

Stephane Glas, the Oyonnax backs coach who was due to take charge of the team after Olivier Azam had been sacked on Thursday, said: " A few of our players were a bit affected by what had happened so it was probably the right decision.

"A few other teams won't play but some will so it makes the pool a bit unbalanced; that is the main problem from a rugby point of view.

"The teams that played will have no problems with their schedule.

"We may end up having to play a league game on a Wednesday and against Ulster at the weekend.

"There will be a lot of organisation to get through as there a lot of teams to now sort out. We'll see.

"We still trained as we wanted to do something. We'll have the day off on Monday."

Belfast Telegraph

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