French rugby has always been associated with flair and pizzazz, with fans fondly recalling Les Bleus scoring some of the greatest tries in the history of the game.
The northern hemisphere New Zealand in so many ways, France are exciting to watch but they often fall at the final hurdle. Can they justify Rugby World Cup predictions and lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time in 2023?
Greatest France Rugby Players Of All-Time:
However, French rugby is about so much more than free-flowing, through-the-hands rugby and some of their greatest ever players are big, grinding forwards.
If you bet on rugby, you’ll know all about these players. None of the current crop make the cut at this stage but who knows, some of the Class of 2023 may feature in the near future…
Rives was a talented back rower with a shock of vibrant blonde hair. He is loved and fondly remembered for his valiant performances in his Test career, earning 59 caps and 34 of those as Les Bleus captain.
He was part of a few Five Nations-winning squads, helping his country to Grand Slam wins in 1977 and 1981 while he captained France to their first ever victory over New Zealand.
Rives proved that he had many strings to his bow, rising to prominence as a successful artist and painter after his retirement. To this day, there are exhibitions of his work around the world.
Sella is one of the greatest centres in French rugby history and he once held the record for most France appearances with 111 caps to his name. At that time, topping the 100 mark was almost unheard of.
A creative player with a strong defensive ability, Sella is one of five players in Five Nations history to score a try in each Test of a single campaign. Furthermore, he represented France in three World Cups – helping his team to the latter stages of the tournament.
The French legend won three Five Nations titles outright in his career, recording a Grand Slam in 1987. In addition, France won joint titles in 1983, 1986 and 1988.
While his contributions at club level had no impact on world rugby rankings, Sella achieved plenty of success at club level too and that cannot be ignored.
Blanco, France's all-time leading try scorer with 38 to his name, was one of the game's all-time greats, regardless of nation.
He earned 93 caps for France throughout his illustrious career, helping his country to two Grand Slams in the Five Nations while captaining Les Bleus at the 1991 World Cup.
In 1987, he scored the game-winning try that sent France to the World Cup final and sent tournament favourites Australia home. Versatile and often used in several rugby union positions, Blanco is undoubtedly one of France’s greatest ever players.
He spent his entire career at Biarritz, playing for his beloved club for almost two decades. Often included in all-time World XVs, Blanco c’est fantastique.
Pelous was a towering second row and he is still the most capped French player in rugby union history with 118 Test match appearances for his country.
He captained Les Bleus in 42 of those matches, a total surpassed only by Thierry Dusautoir – but we’ll get onto him a little later on. He won plenty of trophies throughout his career, with four Six Nations Grand Slam wins and a fifth title in 2006.
He was the first captain in French rugby history to lead Les Bleus to victories over the All Blacks, South Africa and Australia. Again, Dusautoir is the only other player to do that.
One of the greatest rugby union players of all-time, he spent the majority of his 18-year professional career with Toulouse, winning two European Cups and three French league titles.
A heroic figure in French rugby, Dusautoir earned 80 caps for France throughout his career and he is the standout name here. He captained France for a record 56 Test matches and emulated Pelous by leading France to wins over New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
Dusautoir had many memorable days on a rugby pitch but the highlight was undoubtedly France stunning pre-tournament favourites New Zealand in 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter final. He made two more tackles than the entire All Blacks team combined.
In 2011, Dusautoir captained France in the World Cup final, scoring a try but it was more heartbreak for French rugby after a controversial defeat. It’s a real shame he never got to join the Rugby World Cup winners list.