February 26 down the years
Routed England left chasing shadows
Rene Benesis releases the ball in the build-up to yet another French try against England on this day in 1972 © Getty Images

France closed a long chapter in their rugby history with a devastating 37-12 win against England in the last Test staged at Stade Colombes in Paris, scene of the 1924 Chariots of Fire Olympic Games. Winger Bernard Duprat was England's main antagonist, scoring twice. England skipper Peter Dixon made no excuses. "We looked so hopeless by comparison," he said. "The French were so much more agile, so athletic. We were chasing shadows. The French in that sort of mood can shake anyone in the world. It was amazing. You could put one Frenchman down, but there were always two or three more coming up ready to support and attack. We didn't tackle them into the ground, and we should never have let them get six tries. That's ridiculous in international rugby."

Two early second-half tries by Martyn Williams kept alive Welsh hopes of a Grand Slam as they came from behind to beat France 24-18 in Paris. France had stormed ahead in the first-half thanks to Aurelien Rougerie and Dimitri Yachvili's tries, and Wales had looked dead and buried at the break. Williams' tries were a thrilling, unexpected riposte, one coming after a rollicking break from fly-half Stephen Jones, who sealed the win with a nerveless penalty and drop-goal. His joyous hack behind to end the game also closed out a painfully intense closing period as the French scrum inched closer to the Welsh posts and a penalty try.

The Ireland-Scotland fixture was played in such extreme conditions in Dublin that Irish centre George Stephenson, after refusing once, was led from the field near the end in a semi-conscious condition owing to exposure. Another, hooker William Browne, had to be carried off at the end and it took an hour to bring him round. Jim Ganly and Theodore Pike scored Irish tries in a 6-0 victory.

Scott Johnson took over as caretaker coach from Mike Ruddock but saw his Welsh side blasted by Ireland in Dublin. The Six Nations encounter ended in a 31-5 defeat for the reigning champions. Shane Horgan, David Wallace and Peter Stringer scored tries for Ireland, while Gavin Henson played his first Test since the Lions' 2005 debacle in New Zealand, coming on for an unimpressive stint at fullback.

Scotland's George Lindsay scored five tries - a record that still stands for an International Championship match - in his side's victory over Wales at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh. Scotland won 4-0 thanks to conversions from Alexander Woodrow and Charles Berry.

Bournemouth's players received a telegram just before they set off for a match against West Dorset telling them the game was cancelled because of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. West Dorset, meanwhile, were left wondering where their opposition were. It later emerged the telegram was a hoax.

Despite starting as underdogs, Wales thrashed France 25-7 at Swansea thanks to four first-half and three second-half tries. France were a man down for the entire second-half after Marcel Baillette was carried off.

England prop Matt Stevens was banned from all rugby for two years after failing a drugs test. Stevens was handed the 'prescribed sanction' after his sample was found to contain metabolites of cocaine.

French flanker and captain Jean Prat dropped two goals in a 16-9 win against England at Twickenham.

Players scramble for the ball in the bitter cold in 1927 © Scrum.com
© Scrum.com

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