Four of the best Australia vs France rugby matches
In a time of limited international fixtures, the French team arriving in Australia has added plenty of flavour for rugby-loving fans. The Australians will face off against the French in a condensed series, with three fixtures across 11 days this July.
It will be the first match the Australians have played against a northern-hemisphere side in well over a year and a half, providing a delicious hors d’oeuvre ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023 which will be hosted by France.
As the anticipation of the series builds, we take a look back at four of best Australia-France clashes in recent times.
Sydney Football Stadium 2014, Sydney
Australia 39 – France 13
The last time the French toured Australia, they played three tests in a similar series in 2014. As both sides were looking to put their combinations and depth to the test in the lead up to RWC 2015, Australia took a definitive victory with a series clean-sweep.
The series was punctuated by a strong Australian performance in the third match, drowning the French with strength through the middle and expansive backline sweeps. The match was epitomised by debutant Will Skelton. Scoring a try himself and setting up another, Skelton used all of his two-metre frame to dunk the ball over the line, bumping off and carrying defenders over for his first international try.
It was particularly impressive as the performance came off the back of a drab affair the week before in Melbourne, where the Australians scored a tense 6 nil victory.
Stade de France 2014, Paris
France 29 – Australia 26
In the return tour later that year, the results were switched as Australia faced off against France at Stade de France. The Australians came into this match brimming with confidence, having beaten a Barbarians side and narrowly edging out Wales in the last stages in their two previous matches.
They met a French side who had put on five tries against a touring Fiji. Instead of the typical “French flair”, Australia were faced with a gritty and determined French outfit who, despite only having a third of the territory and possession, came home off the boot of Camille Lopez.
The defining moment was a Teddy Thomas try towards the end of the first half. Beating several players with a mix of speed and elusiveness, the young winger showed a clean pair of heels and put France ahead 15 – 0. A late comeback from Australia wasn’t enough to snare a victory.
Rugby World Cup 1987 semi-final, Sydney
France 30 – Australia 24
Rugby World Cup is an event filled with drama, emotion, and passion. In 1987 these two sides played out a narrative fitting the big stage. Australia hosted France at Concord Oval, with the winner to book a final appearance in the inaugural RWC.
Australia’s notable injuries prior to the match were only exacerbated on the pitch, losing Brett Papworth in the first half. At the break, the Australians had a slender lead, going to the change rooms ahead 9-6.
The second half was a see-sawing affair, with the lead changing 5 times in an epic RWC duel. Michael Lynagh, having edged the Australians ahead 24-21, only to have the French to peg one back, tying up the scores at 24-all in injury time. Then, the French went on to score one of the best and most iconic tries in rugby history.
During the play, the ball was handled by 11 French players, pinging from one player to another, coast to coast. The French were making scrappy, steady progress, until the final pass from Laurent Rodriguez saw Serge Blanco scamper around the defensive line and over in the corner. Brilliant for France. Painstaking for Australia. Poetry for rugby.
Rugby World Cup 1999 final, Cardiff
Australia 35 – France 12
The French were flying, having knocked out the well-fancied New Zealand side in the semi-final. Australia had progressed through after a kick-a-thon semi-final against South Africa, where eight penalty goals off the boot of Matt Burke saw them progress to the final.
On the world stage at Cardiff, Australia and France played out an emotive and physical bout. France had scored nine tries in their previous two matches against Argentina and New Zealand, but couldn’t cross the white line against the stoic Australian defence.
The first half saw more duelling boots, with Australia going to the break 12 – 6 in front with all points coming from penalty goals. With 15 minutes to play, repeated advantage line success and quick ball movement from Gregan saw Ben Tune crash over out wide in a critical play. Owen Finegan rubbed in the salt with a try before the final whistle, sending out the Australians in a decisive win.
This coming July, we will no doubt see another modern classic, when both sides set out to prove they are contenders for RWC 2023 in the Australian v France eToro Series!
Australia v France – Test 1 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
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