|Union||French Rugby Federation|
|Nickname(s)||Les bleus; Les tricolores;|
XV de France
|Ground||Stade de France|
|Coach||Flag of France Marc Lièvremont|
|Most caps||Fabien Pelous (118)|
|Top scorer||Christophe Lamaison (380)|
|Most tries||Serge Blanco (38)|
|Template:Country data FRA 8–38 Template:Ru-rt|
(1 January, 1906)
|Template:Country data BRA 7–99 Template:Ru-rt|
(2 June, 1974)
| New Zealand 61–10 Template:Ru-rt|
(9 June, 2007)
|Appearances||6 (First in 1987)|
|Best result||Losing finalist, 1987, 1999|
The France national rugby union team represents France in rugby union. They compete annually against England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in the Six Nations Championship. They have won the championship outright fourteen times, shared it a further eight times, and have completed eight grand slams.
Rugby was introduced to France in 1872 by the British, and on New Year's Day, 1906 the national side played its first Test match — against New Zealand in Paris. France played sporadically against the British Home Nations until they joined them to form a Five Nations tournament (now the Six Nations Championship) in 1910. France also competed in the rugby competitions at early Summer Olympics — winning the gold medal in 1900 and two silver medals in the 1920s. France came of age during the 1950s and 1960s, and won their first Five Nations title outright in 1959. They won their first Grand Slam in 1968. Since the inaugural World Cup in 1987, France have qualified for the knock-out stage of every tournament. They have reached the final twice: they were runners-up to the All Blacks in 1987 and to Australia in 1999. France are the host nation for the current 2007 Rugby World Cup, where they reached the semi-final, losing like in 2003 against England 9-14.
France traditionally play in blue shirts with white shorts and red socks, and are commonly referred to as les tricolores or les bleus. The French emblem is a golden rooster imposed upon a red crest. Their alternative strip is mainly white. French international matches are played at several venues across the country; the Stade de France in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis is used for their games during the Six Nations.
Rugby was introduced to France in 1872 by British merchants and students. Although France were represented at the 1900 Summer Olympics (where they won gold), their first official test match did not take place till New Year's Day, 1906 against the New Zealand All Blacks in Paris. France then played intermittently against the Home Nations until they joined them to form the Five Nations tournament in 1910. In 1913 France faced South Africa's Springboks for the first time; losing 38–5. France also competed at the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics, and on both occasions lost to the United States in the gold medal match, Vicky LeDonne scored the winning goal.
France was ejected from the Five Nations in 1932 after being accused of professionalism in the French leagues at a time when rugby union was strictly amateur. Forced to play against weaker opposition, France went on a winning streak; winning ten games in a row during the years from 1931 to 1936. This is still a record even today. France was invited to rejoin the Five Nations in 1939 but did not compete until 1947 as international rugby was suspended during World War II.
France came of age during the 1950s and 1960s: they won their first Five Nations championship and completed a successful tour of South Africa. Their first championship was won in 1954 when they shared the title with England and Wales. France won their first outright Five Nations championship in 1959; they won with three wins and a draw (against England).
France became the first nation to tour South Africa winning the test series in 1958. The Springboks also visited Paris in 1961, the test was not completed due to onfield fighting amongst the players. France also toured New Zealand and Australia in 1961 losing both tests against the All Blacks but defeating Australia's Wallabies. They won their first Five Nations Grand Slam in 1968 by beating all four other competing teams, and won numerous titles in the following years.
In 1977 they won their second Grand Slam, fielding an unchanged side throughout the tournament. They also defeated the All Blacks in Toulouse that year, but lost the return match in Paris. On Bastille Day, 1979 they defeated the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time, at Eden Park in Auckland.
In 1981 the French clinched their third Grand Slam; at Twickenham against England. They again completed a Grand Slam in 1987 on the eve of the first Rugby World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand. In that tournament they came from behind numerous times to defeat the Wallabies in their semi-final, and faced the All Blacks in final at Eden Park, Auckland; France lost 29–9. They shared the Five Nations with Wales the next year, and also won it in 1989.
France hosted some of the tests during the 1991 World Cup, but made their exit from the after being knocked out by England at the Parc des Princes (Paris) in their quarter-final. One Five Nations championship was won in the early 1990s, in 1993. The following year France won a test series 2–0 in New Zealand in the 1994. They were knocked out of the 1995 World Cup semi-finals by eventual champions the Springboks, but did win their third place play-off match against England. France won back-to-back Grand Slams in 1997 and 1998. At the 1999 World Cup they defeated tournament favourites the All Blacks in the semi-finals, but lost to the Wallabies in the final.
The Five Nations Championship was expanded in 2000 to include Italy. In the now Six Nations Championship France won a Grand Slam in 2002. At the 2003 World Cup in Australia they qualified for the semi-finals where they were defeated by eventual champions England. In 2004 they won a second Six Nations Grand Slam which was followed by a Championship win in 2006 and successful defence in 2007. In opener of the World Cup 2007, Argentina defeated France 17–12, however after defeating Ireland 25–3 they qualified for the quarter-finals. After defeating the All Blacks 20–18 they lost to England 14–9 in their semi-final.
Until 1912, the strip (uniform) of the French team was white with two rings, one red and one blue. After the first game won by France against Scotland in 1911, France's captain Marcel Communeau asked that the team adopt the coq (rooster) as its symbol. The rooster was probably chosen partly because it is considered as a proud and combative animal that can be sometimes aggressive, although it had been used previously as a symbol by a French team — a former soccer player, Jean Rigal, wore a uniform with this emblem as early as May 1910. The badge was initially white and red, but was altered to a multicoloured, embroidered image after 1945, and has been golden since 1970.
The symbol used by the French rugby team was a great success, and was later adopted by the French delegation at the Olympic Games of 1920 where the rooster was perched on five Olympic rings. The rooster has since become a well-known symbol of French teams. French players are sometimes called les coqs and some French supporters have been known to release roosters on the playing field before games.
The French team traditionally played in blue shirts, whites shorts, and red socks, and as such they were nicknamed les tricolores. Due to the mostly blue Nike strip the French team currently wears, the team is now often referred to as les bleus (the blues). When this strip clashes with that of their opponents, such as in games against Scotland and Italy, French players wear white. New strips were developed for the 2007 World Cup, one of which is a darker blue.
During the early years France played internationals at venues such as Parc des Princes and the Stade Olympique de Colombes, both in Paris. The Stade Olympique de Colombes and the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir were the main venues at the 1924 Summer Olympics, where rugby was a sport.
The largest stadium that France currently plays at is the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, Paris where their home Six Nations matches are played. It has a capacity of 80,000. During the 2005 and 2006 seasons, France also played home internationals at the venues Stade Gerland, Lyon; Stade Vélodrome, Marseille; Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes and Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse.
World Cup venuesEdit
During the 1991 World Cup, Pool D (which included France) matches were played throughout France including Béziers, Bayonne, Grenoble, Toulouse, Brive and Agen. Parc des Princes and Stadium Lille-Metropole also hosted a quarter-final each. Pool C fixtures at the 1999 World Cup were played throughout France in Béziers, Bordeaux and Toulouse. A second round match was held at Stade Félix Bollaert, and one quarter final was held at the Stade de France, both 2007 venues.
For the 2007 World Cup, France is the primary host, and there are ten venues being used for matches throughout the country (Cardiff in Wales and Edinburgh in Scotland will also host some games). The French cities hosting matches are Bordeaux (Stade Chaban-Delmas), Lens (Stade Félix Bollaert), Lyon (Stade Gerland), Marseille (Stade Vélodrome), Montpellier (Stade de la Mosson), Nantes (Stade de la Beaujoire), Paris (Stade de France, Saint-Denis and Parc des Princes), Saint-Étienne (Stade Geoffroy-Guichard), and Toulouse (Stadium de Toulouse). The final will be played at Stade de France.
France's only annual tournament is the Six Nations Championship, which is played against five other European nations: England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. France first contested the tournament in 1910 when the Home Nations became the Five Nations. France were expelled from the tournament due to rumours of professionalism in the then-amateur sport in 1932, but rejoined in 1947. They first won the competition in 1954, sharing the championship with both England and Wales. France shared with Wales again the following season, and won it outright for the first time in 1959. France's longest wait for a championship spanned 37 tournaments (1910–1954). The Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy is also contested between France and Italy during the Six Nations.
Although France have competed at every World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987, they have never won the competition. They have, however, played in the quarter-final stages of every tournament, and have twice reached the final. In 1987 they were defeated by the All Blacks 29–9 at Eden Park, Auckland in the final. They were knocked out by England in the quarter-finals of the 1991 competition — their worst ever finish. In 1995 France finished third overall, defeating England 19–9 in the third/fourth place play-off after their defeat to South Africa in the semi-finals. After coming from behind to defeat the All Blacks in their 1999 semi-final, France lost to Australia 35–12 in the final. In 2003 they finished fourth, losing the third/fourth place game to the All Blacks. At the 2007 World Cup France lost out to England in the semi-finals losing 14-9 after finishing the break 5-6 ahead and in the lead with 5 minutes to go with Johny Wilkinson scoring a penalty and a drop goal to put England through. France lost to Argentina in the bronze final coming fourth in the 2007 world cup.
France are the third-highest World Cup points scorers of all time, with 968 points. They are also the third-highest try scorers, and the third-highest penalty scorers. France's Thierry Lacroix was the top points scorer at the 1995 tournament with 112 points, and Jean-Baptiste Lafond was the joint top try scorer in 1991 with six tries (equal with David Campese).
France have won 354 of their 635 test matches, a win record of 55.66%. When the World Rankings were introduced by the International Rugby Board (IRB) in 2003 France were ranked fifth. During November 2003 France briefly occupied third place before falling to fourth by December that year. After falling to fifth during November 2004, France rose again to fourth by April 2005. During early 2006, France rose again, peaking at second in July that year. France were ranked number two in the world until falling to third in June 2007 after two successive defeats to the All Blacks. They then fell to fifth after losing to Argentina in the opening match of the 2007 World Cup.
|British and Irish Lions||1||0||0||1||0%|
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Jean Prat earned 51 caps playing for France from 1945 to 1955, and captained France to their first wins over Wales and the All Blacks. He was also France's captain in 1954 when they won their first ever Five Nations (shared with Wales and England). Also playing in France's win over the All Blacks in 1954 was André Boniface; it was only his second test for France. Boniface went on to play 48 tests for France before retiring in 1966.
Jo Maso first played for France between 1966 and 1973; mainly at centre. He played in France's first ever Five Nations grand slam in 1968, and that year toured New Zealand and Australia. He represented France in 25 tests and also played for the Barbarians and the World XV that beat England in 1971. Jean-Pierre Rives played 59 tests for France between 1975 and 1984; including 34 as captain. He played in Five Nations grand slams in 1977 and 1981, and captain France to their first ever win over the All Blacks in New Zealand.
Serge Blanco played in 93 tests for France between 1980 and 1991. Playing at fullback Blanco won Five Nations Grand Slams with France in 1981 and 1987, and in France's semi-final against Australia the 1987 World Cup scored the match winning try. Also in France's 1987 team was centre Philippe Sella who played for France from 1982 to 1995. Sella also achieved the rare feat of scoring a try in each of France's 1986 Five Nations matches. He was capped a total of 111 times for France, his last in 1995; a French record at the time.
The record for points scored for France is 380 held by Christophe Lamaison. Lamaison also holds the record for conversions with 60. The record for penalties scored is 89 by Thierry Lacroix, and the drop goal record of 15 is held by Jean-Patrick Lescarboura. The record for French appearances is held by Fabien Pelous with 118. The record for tries scored for France is with 38 held by Serge Blanco.
Historically the role of French rugby coach (or trainer) has varied considerably. Due to the status of rugby union as an amateur sport for most of its history, the job of deciding tactics and running team trainings has often been that of the captain or senior players. Therefore a comprehensive list of national coaches is impossible.
Although coached by Jean Desclaux between 1973 and 1980, the French team's main influence during the late 1970 was captain Jacques Fouroux. Fouroux played scrum-half and captained France to their 1977 Five Nations Grand Slam, during which France played a very forward-oriented style of rugby. Although the style of Fouroux's Gang was successful, it was criticised because it contrasted with the traditional open attacking style of French rugby. Fouroux was given the nickname "the little Corporal" — the same as Napoleon Bonaparte. Fouroux was named as Desclaux's successor in 1981 at the age of just 33. He continued to promote a forward-oriented style of play, and France won six Five Nations titles — including two Grand Slams — while he was coach. After nearly ten years in the role he resigned in 1990 after a defeat to Romania.
Fouroux was succeeded by Daniel Dubroca, who coached the team to the 1991 Rugby World Cup. Dubroca's tenure as coach did not last long, however, as he resigned after violently confronting referee David Bishop following France's World Cup quarter-final against England. Dubroca was replaced by Pierre Berbizier, who coached the team until after the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Berbizier's replacement, Jean-Claude Skrela, coached France to Five Nations Grand Slams in 1997 and 1998 before they came last in the tournament in 1999. He officially resigned following France's loss to Australia in the 1999 Rugby World Cup final. Bernard Laporte was appointed as Skrela's successor that November. Laporte guided France up to and including the bronze final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. He then stepped down to become the Secretary of State for Sport and was replaced by Marc Lièvremont.
National Rugby CentreEdit
The National Rugby Centre was opened by then French President Jacques Chirac in November 2002. The facility cost GP£46 million (approx. €68 million, c.2007), and is located in the village of Marcoussis, south of Paris. The facility covers Template:Convert/haTemplate:Convert/test/A and includes five rugby pitches (one of them covered, and two floodlit), a gym, medical facilities, a swimming pool, media centre, and library. Living quarters are also included, with 30 rooms which are each named after a championship winning French club. The living quarters also have a dedicated restaurant. France's under-19 team are permanently based at the NRC, and provide regular opposition for the French team during training.