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International Rugby: France’s Greatest XV

In our series of statistical analyses of the best players for each major rugby nation, we now move on to France. We’ve already looked at England, New Zealand, Ireland, Wales and South Africa, but now we turn to the stereotypically mercurial talents of Les Bleus.

First we begin with the ‘Winners XV’, a team made up of the French players with the most test wins in each position out-right.

Winners XV

When you look at this team there are some real giants of French rugby here – both literally and figuratively speaking. How any French supporter could leave out the likes of Fabien Pelous is beyond this writer’s comprehension, such is the stature of the man.

The team overall is a mixture of differing French eras, but is certainly packed to the brim with nature talent and unbridled ferocity.

1) Olivier Milloud (34)
2) Raphael Ibanez (63)
3) Sylvain Marconnet (49)
4) Fabien Pelous (79)
5) Lionel Nallet (49)
6) Julien Bonnaire (49)
7) Olivier Magne (59)
8) Imanol Harinordoquy (52)

9) Fabien Galthie (38)
10) Frederic Michalak (43)
11) Philippe Saint-Andre (44)
12) Philippe Sella (70)
13) Damien Traille (55)
14) Christophe Dominici (43)
15) Serge Blanco (54)

Of course, professional rugby players take part in more games than ever and making any direct comparison with those from the amateur days based purely on games won can be seen to be a tad unfair. Therefore we have put together a team made up of the players with the best winning percentages.

When the threshold is dropped down to 30 caps (as a form of quality assurance), it is amazing to see the transformation that takes place from the previous team.

Percentages XV (30+ Caps)

Just three players remain from the ‘Winners XV’: flanker Bonnaire, centre Traille and winger Saint-Andre.

1) Alfred Roques (82%)
2) Alain Paco (70%)
3) Franck Tournaire (65%)
4) Olivier Merle (70%)
5) Alain Lorieux (68%)
6) Eric Champ (73%)
7) Julien Bonnaire (71%)
8) Marc Cecillon (76%)

9) Philippe Carbonneau (69%)
10) Alain Penaud (72%)
11) Emile Ntamack (76%)
12) David Marty (81%)
13) Damien Traille (68%)
14) Philippe Saint-Andre (68%)
15) Jean-Michel Aguirre (69%)

This illustrates just how many players have only played around the 30 cap range for France, but also how successful many of them have been. David Marty and Alfred Roques in particular stand out for their winning percentages within the 80s. Although their careers might not have been as long as some of the aforementioned names, they certainly made a huge impact when they played.

Try Scorers XV

Even if you’re not a fan of percentages, you may take some solace in the try-scoring abilities of your favourite French players.

A number of names crop back up from the winners team this time around, but also fresh faces in Domenech, Paparemborde, Crauste, Gallion, Jauzion and Clerc.

When you start to go through all these lists you begin to appreciate the huge depths of talent that France has always had at its disposal.

1) Amedee Domenech (8)
2) Raphael Ibanez (8)
3) Robert Paparemborde (8)
4) Fabien Pelous (7)
5) Lionel Nallet (9)
6) Michel Crauste (10)
7) Olivier Magne (14)
8) Imanol Harinordoquy (12)

9) Jerome Gallion / Fabien Galthie (10)
10) Frederic Michalak / Alain Penaud (10)
11) Philippe Saint-Andre (32)
12) Philippe Sella (27)
13) Yannick Jauzion (20)
14) Vincent Clerc (34)
15) Serge Blanco (34)

Finally, we have put together a team made up of the players with the best winning percentages over Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. If you want to look at players with superior records over the best in the world then this is the team for you.

Beating The Southern Hemisphere XV (15+ Caps)

Roland Bertranne and Cedric Heymans are two more new names, both fantastic players who proved their worth against the best rugby nations in the world at the time.

1) Pieter de Villiers (50%)
2) Raphael Ibanez (36%)
3) Sylvain Marconnet (37%)
4) Olivier Roumat (43%)
5) Lionel Nallet (37%)
6) Philippe Benetton (43%)
7) Julien Bonnaire (34%)
8) Imanol Harinordoquy (37%)

9) Fabien Galthie (38%)
10) Frederic Michalak (34%)
11) Philippe Saint-Andre (47%)
12) Philippe Sella (42%)
13) Roland Bertranne (37%)
14) Cedric Heymans (45%)
15) Jean-Luc Sadourny (39%)

There you have it, ladies and gentleman. We hope now you might go back to your ‘all-time’ France team and begin to ponder some amendments. There are certainly some surprises here.

Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.