The Flair of the French Rugby Team
The history of France stretches back to the time of exploration and sword-and-sandal wars. There is so much history aligned with France that no matter what topic we chose to speak about, France will have some type of connection.
Of course, as any rugby spectator will know, France have also been a strong rugby team. As per the usual introduction of rugby, the sport was brought into France in the late 19th Century by English scholars and merchants. A few minor clubs were established along the way until a French representative side was put together in 1890. This was more of a club side, but considered itself a French national side.
10 years later, the French rugby side were represented in the 1900 Olympic Games but it wasn’t until 1906, that they played in their first internationally recognised test match against New Zealand. After that, they played an irregular schedule until being invited to join the then Five Nations tournament in 1910. France continued to partake in the annual competition and play touring sides, even finishing silver medalists at the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games.
In 1932 however, France was ejected from the Five Nations for going against the spirit of the amateur game of rugby and had to entertain weaker opponents which led to an impressive winning streak. After World War 2, they were invited to rejoin the Five Nations tournament and entered into their element. They won the overall tournament in 1954 on a shared basis but won it outright in 1959. They also undertook successful tours to South Africa and Australia.
From this golden age of French rugby, they had established themselves as a team that was capable of winning tours and tournaments. They competed in the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, winning their group and eventually facing and losing out to the All Blacks in the final, 29-9. This tournament rivalry has continued to this day and France have been known to knock out the All Blacks from previous tournaments.
France has never won the World Cup, but they have come close and in 2011, after successfully beating the All Blacks in previous World Cup knock out stages, they faced their old rivals once more. This time though, the All Blacks pulled off a much waited victory, but unlike the 1987 drubbing, France came agonizing close to their first World Cup victory losing in the final, 8-7.
The French side is unmistakable as they play in a blue jersey with their emblem, the cockerel, on their chest. The original French jersey was white with blue and red rings, or hoops. The same colour as the French flag. It was only in 1911 that the French began to wear the cockerel to signify the pride and combative nature of the animal. Since 1970, the cockerel has been golden and sits on the left hand side of the jersey. The blue jersey was adapted over time to where now the French team plays in all blue and are know as Les Bleus or The Blues. Their current away strip is white but is worn when they clash with the opposition team.
The flair of the French rugby team is brought to life through some great players of the past, some of which are inducted. Jean Prat, Lucien Mias, Andre Boniface, Guy Boniface, Jo Maso, Jean-Pierre Rives and Phillpe Sella. Players that are not in the hall of fame, but deserve a mention are Philippe Saint-Andre, Christophe Lamaison, Demetri Yachvili, Thierry Dusautoir, Sebastian Chabal and Frederik Michalak, to name a few. But the man, that I believe, brought the flair and excitement to the team would be Serge Blanco. He played his career at full-back and each time he received the ball, the game could break wide open. He had a fantastic step and deceptive speed and was dangerous if given space. He was born in Venezuela, but was raised in France in the Biarritz area. He made his debut in 1980 against South Africa and retired from international rugby in 1991. In that time he was awarded 93 caps for France and won Five Nations titles for his country. He is most famous for scoring the winning try against Australia in the 1987 Rugby World Cup to set up the final with New Zealand. These days, Blanco is the French domestic team Biarritz Olympique and has a number of businesses.
Even though France have not performed well recently, dropping to 7th in the world rankings, they still have the talent to beat the opposition. Their current captain, Thierry Dusautoir is an icon of world rugby and leads from the front with no fear or regard for his body into the contact area. The French are known to play with a flair that is magic to watch if executed well, but lately they have lacked direction which many people blame the coach for.
Come World Cup time, things could be different and it all depends on the team on the day and France have been known to knock off the best on more than one occasion.