French rugby has a storied history, and its flankers have often been at the heart of their successes. These players have embodied the spirit of “Les Bleus” with their tenacity, physicality, and skill at the breakdown. In this article, we celebrate the careers of five of the best French flankers of all time, exploring their remarkable achievements, delving into their backgrounds, analyzing their physical attributes, examining their career statistics, and uncovering what made them truly special.
1. Serge Betsen: The Tackling Machine
Achievements: Serge Betsen, widely regarded as one of France’s finest flankers, earned 63 caps for the national team. He played a pivotal role in France’s successes during the early 2000s, including Grand Slam victories in the Six Nations Championship. Betsen’s relentless tackling, disruptive presence at the breakdown, and ability to disrupt opposition attacks set him apart.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Kumba, Cameroon, in 1974, Serge Betsen’s family moved to France when he was a child. Standing at 6 feet (183 cm) and weighing around 100 kg (220 lbs), he possessed the size and strength to excel as a flanker. Betsen’s background in athletics and his work ethic contributed to his incredible fitness and tackling ability.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Serge Betsen’s ability to make bone-crunching tackles, win turnovers, and provide leadership on the field made him special. He was a master at reading the game, anticipating opposition plays, and disrupting their flow. What set him apart was his unwavering commitment to the defensive aspect of the game and his consistency as a performer. Betsen’s contributions to French rugby showcased his unique ability to dominate at the breakdown.
2. Jean-Pierre Rives: The Rugby Renaissance Man
Achievements: Jean-Pierre Rives is a legendary figure in French rugby, earning 59 caps for the national team. He was a key player during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and his leadership was instrumental in securing Grand Slam victories and victories over the All Blacks. Rives’ dynamic play, exceptional athleticism, and versatility set him apart.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Toulouse, France, in 1952, Jean-Pierre Rives was a multi-talented athlete. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) and weighing around 95 kg (209 lbs), he combined size with incredible athleticism. Rives’ background in rugby, athletics, and art contributed to his unique skills on the rugby field.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Jean-Pierre Rives’ ability to cover both flanker positions, his incredible ball-carrying ability, and his artistic approach to the game made him special. He was known for his flowing blond hair, which became an iconic symbol of French rugby. What set him apart was his dynamic style of play, his willingness to take risks, and his ability to inspire his teammates. Rives’ contributions to French rugby extended beyond the field, making him a rugby renaissance man.
3. Olivier Magne: The Back Row Maestro
Achievements: Olivier Magne, a versatile back-row forward, earned 89 caps for the French national team. He was a crucial component of France’s successful campaigns in the early 2000s, including Grand Slam victories in the Six Nations Championship. Magne’s mobility, ball-handling skills, and ability to link play between forwards and backs set him apart.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Aurillac, France, in 1973, Olivier Magne displayed his rugby talents from a young age. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) and weighing around 102 kg (225 lbs), he had the size and athleticism to excel in the back row. Magne’s background in athletics and his versatility made him a valuable asset to the team.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Olivier Magne’s ability to operate across the back row, his powerful ball-carrying, and his link play made him special. He was equally comfortable at openside or blindside flanker. What set him apart was his rugby intelligence, his ability to read the game, and his decision-making skills. Magne’s contributions to French rugby showcased his adaptability and his ability to thrive in different roles.
4. Thierry Dusautoir: The Inspirational Captain
Achievements: Thierry Dusautoir is a modern French rugby legend who earned 80 caps for the national team. He captained France during their 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign, where they reached the final. Dusautoir’s leadership, tackling prowess, and work rate at the breakdown set him apart.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in 1981, Thierry Dusautoir moved to France at a young age. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) and weighing around 106 kg (234 lbs), he had the size and strength to excel as a flanker. Dusautoir’s background in rugby league and his physicality contributed to his impressive defensive skills.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Thierry Dusautoir’s ability to lead by example, make crucial tackles, and win turnovers made him special. He was a tireless worker in the back row, covering immense ground during matches. What set him apart was his leadership on and off the field, his ability to inspire his teammates, and his unwavering commitment to the jersey. Dusautoir’s contributions to French rugby, including his iconic performance in the 2011 World Cup final, solidified his status as an inspirational captain.
5. Olivier Roumat: The Lineout Expert
Achievements: Olivier Roumat earned 61 caps for the French national team during the 1990s. He was a vital presence in the forward pack, known for his lineout expertise and physicality in the loose. Roumat’s work rate, aerial skills, and ability to disrupt opposition set pieces set him apart.
Background and Physical Stats: Born in Dax, France, in 1968, Olivier Roumat was a product of the renowned rugby region of southwest France. Standing at 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm) and weighing around 113 kg (249 lbs), he was an imposing figure in the forward pack. Roumat’s background in athletics and his dedication to set piece play contributed to his lineout prowess.
Career Stats and What Made Him Special: Olivier Roumat’s ability to dominate the lineout, provide a physical presence in the forward pack, and disrupt opposition set pieces made him special. He was a key component of France’s forward dominance during his era. What set him apart was his expertise in the intricacies of lineout play, his ability to steal opposition throws, and his consistency as a performer. Roumat’s contributions to French rugby showcased his mastery of the forward art.
These legendary French flankers have not only embodied the spirit of French rugby but have also left an enduring legacy in the world of the sport. Their incredible achievements, unique physical attributes, and unwavering dedication to the French rugby cause have cemented their places among the greatest flankers in the sport’s history.