Rugby World Cup: Australia

The tension of the match has subsided. They showered, put on their costumes, but they all decided together to return to the lawn of their exploit. Here they are grouped together in the center of the field, the sun down, with the only lighting being the light from the flash of a camera. And the voice of the Basque Pascal Ondarts rises, for a communion song that unites the group ever more. Simple happiness and great emotion.

Welcome to the choir of the XV of France, a hell of a bunch of friends dropped there, in the middle of the Concord Oval, Sydney’s country stadium, celebrating in their own way the crazy afternoon they have just spent. Two hours earlier, the Blues beat the Australian XV at home, 30-24, in the semi-finals of the World Cup, a new competition organized on the oval planet. There is the result, great, but there is also the way, exceptional.

Stung in their pride

On June 13, 1987, it was first a XV of France starved to death who landed on the meadow. In the quarter-finals against Fiji six days earlier, the Blues were surprised by the liveliness of the islands’ rugby, which they knew little about at the time. They won, of course, but with difficulty (31-16). Commentators pointed to the poor performance. Something to pique the pride of the French. Especially since the coach Jacques Fouroux adds to tickle the blue pride. “He knew perfectly how to touch everyone’s sensitive point.remembers captain Daniel Dubroca. I have never known anyone capable of such management. The osmosis of the team at the time was thanks to him. He went up against us both against the journalists, and also against those Australians and New Zealanders who were sure to find themselves in the final. And we, we suddenly wanted to do everything so as not to be taken for idiots. »

In the days preceding the clash against the Australians, the Blues therefore engaged in daunting training. “We prepared as for a civil war”will later drop the Lourdes pillar Jean-Pierre Garuet. “We really felt alone against everyone”, will say for his part Serge Blanco, the rear wisp of the Blues. The state of mind is excessive, no doubt, but effective on the ground at the time of the great duel.

The players of the XV of France during training in June 1987, in Auckland (New Zealand). / Leon Hamlet/AP

“If in the first twenty minutes we didn’t see the ball much, conceding nine points on kicks, we put them on the other hand on the ass in the scrumsays the firefighter and second line Alain Lorieux. Gradually we completely twist them. We feel that they are within our reach. » The Blues, moreover, come back to score before the break (6-9), on a ball stolen in a regrouping after a touch by Alain Lorieux, thus concretizing the work of undermining the French forwards.

Conquering forwards

Commenting on the match live for Antenne 2, Pierre Albaladejo is not mistaken: “Whatever the outcome of this match, in this first half, we can always say that we largely dominated the Australians, even if the score is not to our advantage. I consider that we were faultless and that we prepared well for the second half. » On the edge of the lawn, the sores are being treated, as the engagement was intense, but the morale of the troops is perfectly intact. “We had only one desire, it is to concretize our ascendancysupports Daniel Dubroca. We were conquerors in front, on the bases dear to Jacques Fouroux for whom the scrum was the nerve center of the game – he often repeated: “no scrum, no win” (“no scrum, no victory”, editor’s note) – but we also had a damn nice three-quarter line. »

Demonstration very quickly after the recovery, with a movement magnified by a devastating hook from the center Philippe Sella thanks to which the Blues take the advantage (12-9). From then on, a showdown begins. The Blues like the Wallabies indulge in a more or less controlled hurrah-rugby, with sumptuous offshore tries, but also hand fouls galore, and stray balls that only hurt certainties. The scoreboard soon notes the suspense that sets in. 21 everywhere. The end of regulation time is near.

Everything is in place for an improbable finale, the last five minutes that even the writers of the legendary television series rebroadcast in 1987 would not have dared. It is first the rush of the Australians, rewarded by a penalty under the French posts. 24-21. The case seems folded. But no. The Blues still open towards the wings, those of Didier Camberabero are badly cut by an Australian, fault. The same “Cambé”, called at the last minute on the day of departure for Australia, does not tremble in his role as scorer. 24-24.

A collective of talented and supportive friends

And then come those priceless 60 seconds. The Australians introduce a touch in the French 22 meters. The Blues steal the ball, which travels to Patrice Lagisquet who clears with a big kick. At the reception rush David Campese, the Australian full-back, and Alain Lorieux tumbling like a raging bull. “Me, I only stare at the ball, I take Campese’s shoulder and I knock myself out on the ground in factlaughs today the second French line. I was mostly burnt out, and I don’t see the end of the action. »

It continues however, somewhat no matter how, and no doubt the video today would sanction some wanderings, but the ball lives, from one hand to the other, and the scrum half Pierre Berbizier, suddenly, reverses the game of a mammoth pass to Lagisquet quickly tackled. The ball drags on the ground but Laurent Rodriguez picks it up and passes it in the same movement to Serge Blanco, who runs, runs and throws himself into the in-goal corner to flatten. Forever he just scored “the test at the end of the world”. 30-24, the French team is in the final! In the commentary, Pierre Albaladejo has returned everything: “We no longer know what we are doing, we no longer know what we are saying! »howls the Dacquois.

Serge Blanco can exult: he has just scored the try that qualifies France for the World Cup final, after a crazy race. / Billy Stickland/Inpho/Sports Press

He is not the only one. “We resumed for a short minute of stoppage time again, and when the end-of-match siren sounded, I didn’t even hear it.says Alain Lorieux. The others laughed: the fireman is the only one who doesn’t hear the siren! » The great strength of this team came from there, from the collective of friends, talented athletes and supportive boys. They did not win this World Cup against the New Zealanders a few days later (9-29 defeat), “because in the end we had played our final against the Australianssummarizes Daniel Dubroca. It’s a small regret. But this adventure remains, and between us, an unbreakable bond ». Most now see each other regularly. At the beginning of September, twenty of them will meet in Biarritz to celebrate the 70th birthday of Antoine Galibert, the physiotherapist present at their side in Australia. Pascal Ondarts once summed it up well: “The friendship that has remained for more than thirty years is the treasure that has been unearthed there. »


The eye of the technical staff: “We had laid the foundations for scientific preparation”

Max Godemet, responsible for the preparation of the XV of France in 1987, then assistant coach of the Blues between 1995 and 1999

“Coach Jacques Fouroux very quickly understood the vital importance of this new competition, the World Cup. As early as 1985, he had thus created within the French Rugby Federation a commission of doctors and technical managers, including myself, in order to reflect on the evaluation of players on a physical level, to prepare them as well as possible for the event. The guys therefore passed a battery of physical tests, which sometimes was not sad, because it was a first for them, and blood tests under the leadership of the expert Gérard Dine, who was to become one of the leaders of the fight against doping.

All the data, we processed them with the first computers of the University of Bordeaux. Then we established individual programs. We were thus among the first in Europe to lay the foundations for scientific preparation. So, of course, it was fashionable in this generation, not yet professional, to boast that we trained little. But I can tell you that some were very serious, and that the course in Saint-Lary in the Hautes-Pyrénées was not just devoted to fishing trips. On the field, moreover, against the Australians, the guys showed their strength by their wild commitment. This last try, at the end of the match, you had to be able to get it! »


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