Five French legends into IRB Hall of Fame

(IRB.COM) Saturday 19 March 2011
 Five French legends into IRB Hall of Fame
From L-R: Serge Blanco, Gerald Davies (Induction Panel member), Bernard Lapasset (Induction Panel Chairman), Andre Boniface and Denis Lallane (representing Dr. Lucien Mias) - Photo: Isabelle Picarel

The International Rugby Board inducted five greats of French Rugby into the IRB Hall of Fame at a special presentation in Paris on Saturday.

Jean Prat, Lucien Mias, Andre and Guy Boniface and Serge Blanco have all been honoured for their outstanding contribution to the Game and join an illustrious list of members who have been inducted into the prestigious IRB Hall of Fame since its inception in 2006.

IRB Chairman and IRB Hall of Fame Induction Panel Chairman Bernard Lapasset presented commemorative caps and gold pins to the inductees and those representing inductees prior to the France v Wales RBS 6 Nations match at the Stade de France. The inductees also received a moving ovation when they were presented to the 80,000 crowd.

“I am honoured and delighted to stand here alongside these legends of French Rugby who have all significantly contributed to the profile and development of the Game in this country. They not only epitomise the creativity and flamboyance of French Rugby, but also Rugby's values of integrity, solidarity and respect,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

Nicknamed 'Monsieur Rugby', Jean Prat was one of the pioneers of modern French Rugby. The Lourdes flanker led his country on 17 occasions between 1945 and 1955 and scored the winning try in France’s first-ever victory over New Zealand in 1954. At the time of his retirement in 1955 Prat was the world’s most capped player with 51 appearances.

Lucien Mias was one of the most influential captains of his country. France's own 'Docteur Pack' was credited with the invention of the advantage line in forward play. His greatest achievement was to lead France to a Test series victory in South Africa in 1958, the first time any touring nation had won a series in South Africa in the 20th century.

Brothers Andre and Guy Boniface redefined the concept of back play through their unique blend of skill and creativity. While both had reached the international stage during the 1950s, the pair did not appear in the same France side until 1961. Andre won 48 caps and Guy 35 caps. Guy was tragically killed in a car crash in 1968.

"I am delighted to receive this award on behalf of both of us and I know that Guy would have been overwhelmed if he was still alive. It is fabulous to have our achievements recognised as brothers and my only regret that we did not play together more often for France," said Andre Boniface.

One of the most gifted individuals to play the Game, Serge Blanco enjoyed an illustrious international career and made the France full back position his own between 1980 and 1991, winning 93 caps. Former President of the Ligue Nationale de Rugby and President of the Biarritz Club, Blanco continues to enjoy as much of an influence off the pitch as he did on it.

"It is a tremendous honour to have been inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame alongside these legends of French Rugby. I am certainly humbled and proud and I would like to dedicate this accolade to my teammates from Biarritz and the French team who made this possible. Without them I would have never climbed the peaks of Rugby happiness. For me Rugby remains the greatest sport of all and moments like this serve to remind you of all the great times and the good people I lived and played with," said Blanco.

Further inductions under the theme of Invention and Creativity in Rugby will be held during 2011.

The IRB Hall of Fame Panel

The IRB Induction Panel, chaired by Bernard Lapasset, includes prominent French Rugby journalist and historian Henri Garcia, Wales and Lions legend and IRB Council Member Gerald Davies, former England scrum half and TV commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith, well known New Zealand journalist and author Don Cameron, former Scotland hooker, writer and author Norman Mair and leading Argentine journalist, historian and broadcaster Pablo Mamone, with the IRB’s Chris Thau as Secretary.

Andre Boniface also received the accolade of behalf of his late brother Guy, while Jean Prat was represented by his former Lourdes and France teammate Robert Soro, the oldest living French international. Former French captain Lucien Mias, unable to attend due to ill-health, was represented by one of his closest friends, legendary French journalist Denis Lallane.

The IRB Hall of Fame was launched in 2006 with the inaugural induction of Rugby School and William Webb Ellis. A further 19 legends have been added since as follows: Baron Pierre de Coubertin, Dr Danie Craven, Wilson Whineray, Gareth Edwards, John Eales, The 1888 Natives Team and Joseph Warbrick, Ned Haig and the Melrose club, Dr Jack Kyle, Philippe Sella, Hugo Porta, William Maclagan, Barry Heatlie, Bernie Osler, Cliff Morgan, Sir Anthony O’Reilly, Frick du Preez, Dr. Syd Millar, Willie John McBride and Sir Ian McGeechan.