Full name Jean-Claude Skrela
Born October 1, 1949, Cornebarrieu
Current age 66 years 239 days
Major teams France, France XV
Height 6 ft 2 in
Weight 199 lb
|Test debut||South Africa v France at Durban, Jun 19, 1971 match details|
|Last Test||Wales v France at Cardiff, Mar 18, 1978 match details|
|Test Statsguru||Main menu | Career summary | Match list | Most points | Most tries | Tournament list|
John-Claude Skrela has made a hugely significant contribution to French rugby, first as a player and then as a coach.
The son of Polish immigrants, Skrela was born in Colomiers on October 1, 1949. A gifted back-row forward, he enjoyed little success at club level with Toulouse. After a bright start to his France career (he scored the first four-point try in Test rugby, against Australia in 1971 in what was just his second outing for his country), it also seemed as if silverware was to elude him at international level.
However, in 1977 he was part of the French side which recorded a Five Nations Grand Slam. It was a noteworthy triumph because Les Bleus had achieved their clean sweep with the same 15 players for every game, which remains a record. Skrela made his final appearance for France the following year, against Wales in Cardiff, and he bowed out with a try.
Upon calling time on his playing career, Skrela then turned his attention to coaching and was appointed as France boss in 1995, succeeding Pierre Berbizier in the position. He masterminded the country's first ever back-to-back Grand Slams, in 1997 and 1998, but after collecting the wooden spoon the following year, Skrela was under intense scrutiny going into the 1999 World Cup.
France topped a group containing Fiji, Canada and Namibia without ever really impressing and then took out Argentina in the quarter-finals to set up a last-four meeting with a much-vaunted New Zealand side. In a game widely regarded as the greatest in World Cup history, France came from 14 points down to upset the All Blacks 43-31 and secure a place in the final.
There was to be no crowning glory for Skrela, though, as France were beaten by the Wallabies in the tournament decider and he stepped down as head coach soon after. However, his connection with the French team did not end there because two years after his resignation his son David made his debut for the national team.