The emotion was tangible on Sunday as French club Aurillac kicked off their league season with a tribute to Louis Fajfrowski, who died after a collision in a pre-season game.
There was a minute's applause for the player, who died on August 10, before the home game against Oyonnax and fans unveiled a banner saying: "Always in our hearts."
The game was originally scheduled for Friday but was switched to avoid a clash with the funeral.
There was also a minute's applause in the other opening-round games in the division in tribute to both Fajfrowski and Pierre Camou, the ex-president of the French rugby federation, who died on Wednesday.
In the warm ups in Aurillac, the home team wore shirts bearing Fajfrowski's name and number, 14. For the match they wore shirts embroidered with the initials "LF," which the team plan to sport all season.
Andre Bester, Aurillac's South African coach, has hung a portrait of Fajfrowski in the player tunnel saying: "It's so they keep him in mind all year, each time they run onto the pitch."
His girlfriend Margot and younger brother Paul kicked off the game on Sunday.
Fajfrowski, a 21-year old back came off in a game against Rodez on August 10 after what spectators described as a routine rugby tackle, but he then collapsed in the dressing room and died.
The post-mortem last Monday did not find a specific cause of death but further tests are being carried out.
In the game on Sunday, Aurillac raced to a 20-6 halftime lead against opponents relegated from Pro 14 at the end of last season and held on to win 20-19 on a draining afternoon.