France emerge as a major force in world rugby
John Palfrey
July 7, 2008

Fifty years ago this week France embarked on what would turn out to be an historic tour first tour of South Africa, one that underlined their emergence as major rugby power. John Palfrey celebrates the 'birth of Les Bleus'.

On 8th July 1958, the French national team arrived in Salisbury (now Harare, Zimbabwe) for its first ever Tour in a Commonwealth country.

Of course, France had already played against all the major rugby union teams and had toured in Argentina in 1949 and 1954.

The 'Tricolores' had even defeated the All Blacks (3-0) in Paris on a famous day at Stade Colombes in 1954 - but they had never played away against one of the sport's big three - Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

So what better way to test the progress of French rugby than to send them for a five week trip against the Springboks and their best provinces.

A squad of 27 players were assembled and were asked by René Crabos (French rugby legend and President of the FFR at the time) to 'do their best, give a good account of French rugby and to try to win one or two games'.

Back then few would have predicted what this team, led by Lucien Mias, would go on to achieve.

For they would succeed where all other nations had failed, including the mighty All Blacks, by winning a series in South Africa.

And even more, they impressed the locals throughout their ten game tour with the fighting spirit of their forwards and the skills of their back lines.

From that day French rugby would never again be considered just an 'interesting' team, but instead a side that could beat the best in the world on their day.

The 27 players who wrote a famous chapter in the history of French rugby were:

Raoul Barrière, Jean Barthe, Robert Baulon, Jean Carrère, Louis Casaux, Michel Celaya, Pierre Danos, Jean Dupuy, Louis Echave, Pierre Fremaux, Jean de Grogorio, André Haget, Pierre Lacaze, Pierre Lacroix, Jacques Lepatey, Arnaud Marquesuzaa, Roger Martine, Lucien Mias (cap), Bernard Mommejat, François Moncla, Aldo Quaglio, Henri Rancoule, Lucien Roge, Alfred Roques, Guy Stener, MichelVannier, Roger Vigier.

Manager : Serge Saulnier ; Assistant manager : Marcel Laurent

Two journalists and one photographer also travelled with the squad, including the famous sports writer Denis Lalanne.

Click here for full details of the 1958 Test series between South Africa and France with ScrumStats

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