FranceRugby is governed by the French Rugby Federation, FFR Rugby. However, FranceRugby is more than just rugby union in France, it is the style, temperament, success and failure that has become synonymous with the beauty of French rugby. FranceRugby can be the famous ‘try from the end of the world’ that Jean-Luc Sadourny scored against the All Blacks, or FranceRugby can be a club team purposely putting the kick off out on the full so the two scrums can go at each other, or it can be the French team losing by 40 points to the All Blacks only to eliminate them from the World Cup a month or two later.
Rugby Union in France
Rugby Union is incredibly popular in France. In fact, after soccer (football) it is France’s second most popular team sport. FranceRugby is governed by FFR Rugby at both amateur and professional level in France. In many parts of France, particularly in Southern France it is even more popular than soccer. Rugby Union has been played in France since the 1870s, when it was introduced by British people living there at the time, such as students and merchants. This means FranceRugby began its rich history almost 150 years ago. On the world stage FranceRugby has been represented by the France National team since 1900, when they won the first ever gold medal for rugby at the Olympics. Having won the inaugural gold medal at the 1900 Olympics, the FranceRugby team went onto win two silver medals at Olympic Games in the 1920’s. The French national rugby team, Les Blues is one of the most successful international rugby teams in the world. They are easily the most successful team never to win the World Cup, having reached the final on three occasions. They have reached the quarter final every tournament. In classic FranceRugby style, they have been defeated in the final twice by New Zealand but also knocked New Zealand out in the preliminary finals on two occasions.
France’s 2011 Rugby World Cup tournament could be seen as a microcosm of the beauty, volatility, passion and drama that is FranceRugby. The France Rugby team went into the World Cup as one of the tournament favourites, with many rugby experts citing their strength of depth and strong 2010 and 2011 Six Nations tournaments as reasons for positivity, despite an embarrassing loss to Italy in the 2011 tournament. However, in true FranceRugby fashion their tournament was gripped with turmoil, drama, highs and lows. A public was developed between the FranceRugby coach Marc Lièvremont and his players. The team was unimpressive in victories over Japan and Canada and their loss to New Zealand. However, the upset of the tournament came when Tonga defeated France in pool play. At each juncture Marc Lièvremont and his team traded public verbal blows leading into the finals. However, against the odds the FranceRugby team went on to defeat England in the quarter final then Wales in the semi final. Despite losing heavily to the New Zealand rugby team in pool play, they went onto take the All Blacks to the wire in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, eventually losing by a single point.
FFR Rugby, the French Rugby Federation was founded 1919. In French, FFR Rugby stands for Federation Francais de Rugby and it governs FranceRugby throughout France. FFR Rugby was a founding member of FIRA (Association of European Rugby) in 1934, which FFR Rugby was integral in setting up. FFR Rugby set up FIRA (Fédération internationale de rugby amateur) along with the countries of Germany, Czechoslovakia, Catalonia and Romania. It became a member of the International Rugby Board (the IRB) in 1978. FFR Rugby hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup, which was played throughout France.
The current president of FFR Rugby is Pierre Camou. Following the 2011 Rugby World Cup Marc Lièvremont was replaced as FranceRugby coach by Philippe Saint-André. Francis Cadene is the current FranceRugby Women’s coach and Thierry Janeczek is the FranceRugby Sevens coach. FranceRugby is represented on the world by Les Blues, the France National Rugby Union Team. A France National team was formed to compete at the 1900 Paris Olympics, where it won the gold medal by defeating a Germany team and a British team. However, it was a further six years before they played their first recognised test match. The FranceRugby team’s first official test match was in 1906 against the New Zealand rugby team in Paris, which they lost 38–8. From that point on the destinies of New Zealand and France Rugby seemed to be forever entwined. While that 1906 test featured the birth of a rugby giant in France, it was also the first tour in which the New Zealand rugby team took on their legendary name, The All Blacks. The All Blacks were captained in that historic match by Dave Gallaher who would go on to fight on the battlefields of Europe in the first World War. He was killed in the Battle of Passchendaele and remains buried in Belgium. The two countries now compete for the Dave Gallaher Cup, which is awarded to the victorious team after a test match or series.
The New Zealand and France Rugby teams have gone onto have some historic matches, particularly in World Cups. While New Zealand usually comes out on top, the FranceRugby team saves its most electric rugby for when the world is least expecting it, often against the All Blacks.
FranceRugby in the Six Nations
In 1910 FFR Rugby joined with the Home Nations to form the annual Five Nations tournament, which they have competed in every year. However, due to being expelled from the tournament due to suspicions of having professional players in France (Rugby Union at the time was strictly amateur) and then the Second World War, they had a hiatus between 1932 and 1947. There had also been a break between 1915 and 1919 due to the First World War. The FranceRugby team have competed in 81 Five or Six Nations tournament, winning 17 of them. Although it took 37 tournaments and 44 years to win their first trophy, they have gone on to become arguably the most successful Six Nations team. Since Italy joined England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales to form the Six Nations in 2000, the FranceRugby team have won the tournament five times, which is more than any other team. Despite competing in 30 less tournaments than England, they have only eight less championships.
Les Bleus: Ambassadors of FranceRugby
Les Bleus, the FranceRugby Team take their name from their dark blue rugby jersey. The emblem on the FranceRugby jersey is gold Gallic rooster, which is France’s national symbol, on a red shield. The most famous FranceRugby home ground is the Stade de France in Paris, where they play all of their Six Nations home games. They also have a stadium stronghold in Marseille called Stade Vélodrome, where they rarely lose.
Former FranceRugby captain and previous record holder for most caps as a lock, Fabien Pelous has the FranceRugby record for most caps, with 118, of which 42 were as captain. The FranceRugby all-time record holder for test points is Christophe Lamaison, who scored 380 points for Les Bleus. Considered by many to be the greatest rugby fullback of all time, FranceRugby great Serge Blanco has the record for most tries, with 38. Blanco is a member of both the International Rugby Hall of Fame and the IRB Hall of Fame. The current FranceRugby team captain is Thierry Dusautoir. Following his inspirational efforts in a losing side against New Zealand in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, Thierry Dusautoir was named the 2011 IRB Player of the Year, the first FranceRugby player to win the honour.