The Players

In October 2017, as self-appointed chairman of selectors, I named a coach and 32 iconic French players in my squad. They had to meet the following criteria for selection, which gave me ample room for discretion:

  1. Had to have played in the 1980s. I could easily to have extended this to so many great players before 1980.
  2. Had to have made a significant contribution to the development of the 1987 RWC squad.
  3. Had to fit into my subjective definition of French flair and exhibit some of the following: power, pace, character, impact, audacity, non-conformism… It is fool’s errand to get too scientific about this though. My selection, like so many a French coach and selector in the past, is much more about heart, beauty and impact than the chicanery of statistics.

To those of us who watched their games, whatever our nationality, it was the French Flair that we remember. It was their Gallic expression of this beautiful game, their version of the iron fist in a velvet glove, a mélange of brutality, skill, spontaneity and vertiginous runs which conjured magnificent tries. Like the world’s great artists - Mozart, Picasso, Shakespeare, Lennon, Zidane, De Niro - their artistry was intoxicating, palpable and etched into your memory forever.

Here is a teaser of what's to come...

  • Serge Blanco

    “Playing against South Africa in 1980 was a big moment for me. I always wondered whether I was selected because I was good enough or because I was a man of colour. I thought that the only way to find…

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  • Pierre Dospital

    "David, I tell you, there was never any violent play in our local derby against Biarritz. Of course it was hard and uncompromising but I considered players like Pascal, Serge and Jean Condom as my brothers. And brothers can fight…

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  • Pascal Ondarts

    "I speak to my front row friends Philippe Dintrans and Jean-Pierre Garuet every day. We are like brothers. That friendship has developed over 40 years and is worth more than the price of gold." I arrived at the Loreak on…

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  • Laurent Rodriguez

    "All these stories about us taking drugs were absolute nonsense. In 1986 in Nantes, the ABs said we came out with evil in our eyes and so concluded we’d taken drugs. That wasn’t the drugs – that was a combination…

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  • Patrice Lagisquet

    "The opportunity to play with players like Serge Blanco, Philippe Sella and Laurent Rodriguez was a gift from the Gods. Serge was so strong and fast, and you couldn’t see him accelerate so it took me time to get used…

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  • Jean Condom

    "Gary Whetton, the former great All Black, was and is a great man. In the Battle of Nantes in 1986, we stamped, raked and punched him and the ABs the whole game. But there was a moment when the All…

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  • Laurent Pardo

    "Rugby has to be great fun. We should stop coaching teams and a try should be worth 40 points. Giving your team mate a pass and scoring a try are the greatest things in rugby, not the coaches. I love…

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  • Louisou Armary

    “I remember those test matches in 1990 against Australia well. The Australian hooker, Phil Kearns, nicked the ball a few times against the head so I gave him a little head but. In France, you never nicked the opposition ball…

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  • Pierre Berbizier

    "When I became French coach in 1991 after the world cup, I knew France had discipline problems in the team which were not in keeping with the image we wanted to project. So I told the press I would sort…

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  • Patrick Esteve

    "Rugby doesn’t tolerate collective or emotional mediocrity. If you don’t love each other or operate as a team, you’ll never succeed. As soon as the media and money are involved, you forget your values and what makes you successful. It…

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  • Philippe Dintrans

    "In that 2nd test match against the All Blacks in 1979, Fred Costes kicked the ball out and the referee blew his whistle for us to win the game. I was so elated that I hugged the referee, John West,…

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  • Jean Pierre Garuet

    "Ah, my sending off in 1984 against the Irish… Of course I never gouged anyone! Moss Keane started the fight and John O’Driscoll took a punch, and it all kicked off. Ferrasse said to me: 'Garuche, you’re a twat, but…

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  • Alain Lorieux

    "The game today is very different to when we played it. Now the players are managed by their agents, date 18 year olds and are enclosed in their cocoons. Everything which makes a man such as managing money, buying a…

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  • Jean Pierre Rives

     "What is rugby? You need love in your heart and a kick in the head. There are a few different ways to lead men – you can be alongside them and love them and they follow, or you can be…

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  • Didier Cambérabero

    "I was unlucky not to be picked in the original squad for the RWC in 1987 but then lucky to be picked in the final one. Berot, the kicker from Agen, got injured and they replaced him with Andrieu, a…

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  • Marc Cecillon

    "It was 1977 and Bourgoin were playing Perpignan. We fought like dogs the whole match, and Jacques Tisseyre and I were sent off. He was 36 and I was 17. Caseneuve was the French selector of France A at the…

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  • Eric Champ

    "Damn, I wish I could speak English. When I am with the same blokes I played against, with the same values of friendship, team work, respect and solidarity, I get so frustrated that the language gets in the way. I…

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  • Didier Codorniou

    "That tour to New Zealand in 1979 was fabulous. And that second test against the All Blacks was the greatest match I experienced for its intensity, pace and skill, and the way Jean Pierre Rives led the team. It was…

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  • Jerome Gallion

    "I remember playing against Gareth Edwards in his last game in 1978. The atmosphere was amazing. The noise and the singing and Cardiff Arms Park gave me goose bumps. We had the chance to win another grand slam but we…

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  • Jean Francois Imbernon

    "In 1982, the dwarf (as I used to call Jacques Fouroux) telephoned me while I was in my bistro down the road, and asked me to come back and play the last game against Ireland. I told him I wasn’t…

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  • Pierre Lacans

    "When I look back on that fateful day, Pierre played, led and celebrated victory with panache, brilliance and elegance, like he knew it was his last night. He was an adorable man and the whole community remembers him with great…

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  • Jacques Fouroux

    "Jacques Fouroux was more of a management guru than a coach. When he gave the match day shirts out, he would motivate each player in a very individual way. He’d say to the Basque props like Pascal and Doxpi: ‘Make…

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  • Robert Paparemborde

    "I first met Robert when I went to see Jean-Pierre Rives, who I already knew, at his apartment in Paris. They were going out that night and Jean-Pierre said, ‘Say hello to Papa, he’s there in the spare bedroom.' I…

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  • Armand Vaquerin

    "Outside of rugby, he was a thunderbolt. He played and partied hard, and would have got a lot more caps for France if he had been more focused on his rugby! He would go out anywhere, at any time, and…

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  • Daniel Dubroca

    "That game in 1991 against England at the Parc des Princes in the RWC hurt so much at the time. The ref let England get away with murder. There was so much injustice and so many flagrant referring errors. Serge…

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  • Dominique Erbani

    "Before I played the All Blacks, Robert Paparemborde said to me: ‘Until you have played the All Blacks, you haven’t lived, you don’t know what rugby is.’ I thought: ‘Holy shit. I have played the English, Welsh, Irish and Scots…

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  • Erik Bonneval

    "When I scored those 3 tries against Scotland in 1987, at the post match dinner, someone asked the referee about potential forward pass. He just said: ‘The action was so fast and beautiful that I felt I just had to…

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  • Jean Luc Joinel

    "There were some huge fights back in the day. I remember one in particular when Brives played Narbonne. Narbonne kept targeting our Australian second row, Peter FitzSimons, so in the end, we just bought the ball down and had a…

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  • Jean Patrick Lescarboura

    "I used to love playing with Lolo Rodriguez. Believe me, it was far better he was on your side than the opposition. However, he had this habit of squeezing your hand very hard when he shook it. He had so…

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  • Philippe Sella

    "I remember playing in a summer tournament called the Mediterranean games in around 1983. It was very hot and none of us was in top shape. At a training session, Jean Pierre took the forwards off for a long hard…

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  • Jean Baptiste Lafond

    "Before I was married, the fun was unrestrained. I remember my friend turned up in my bedroom while I was in the bath. It was the week of the Babas’ game in London. She just got in with me and…

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  • Denis Charvet

    "I wrote my book, La mort debout, because somewhere deep inside me, I needed to exorcise my demons and move to the next phase of my life after I finished playing. People who say you can easily handle the end…

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  • Franck Mesnel

    "I remember going to RCP for a trial in 1986 when I was 25 years old. I had trained really hard and we played a second division side in what I regarded as the most important game of my life.…

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