Rugby: Five times France broke the All Blacks' hearts

2007: Barnes' blunder

Considered by many as the world's best referee, Englishman Wayne Barnes chose a bad time to make one of the worst blunders in Rugby World Cup history at the 2007 edition.

France trailed the All Blacks in their quarter-final match-up by five points with little more than 10 minutes remaining, when the unthinkable happened.

Damian Traille put Freddie Michalak clean through a hole, after finding the replacement with an obvious forward pass, then before the Michalak linked up with Yannick Jauzion to score the try.

Barnes opted not to consult with his touch judges, who admittedly, also missed the incident.

It was only the cherry on top of what was a disastrous night with the whistle for Barnes, who earlier controversially yellow-carded Luke McAlister for taking Jauzion without the ball, when the All Blacks were up by 10 shortly after halftime.   

The man advantage allowed France to claw back into the game, before Jauzion went over to turn the game on its head.

The French would see out the game, winning 20-18, sending the All Blacks home and once again reiterating their 'chokers' tag.

wayne barnes
Monsieur Barnes helped the French just a little in 2007. Photo credit: Photosport

Going into the World Cup, Graham Henry's side were widely regarded as one of the best to ever assemble and were rightly given the favourites’ tag.

They were expected to roll a French team that had already lost to tournament upstarts Argentina.

Instead, New Zealand's dry spell at the World Cup was extended to five without a title.


1999: Don't call it comeback

France's sensational win over the All Blacks in the1999 Rugby World Cup semi-final stands as one of the greatest games ever played.

'Les Bleus' were given no chance of winning the contest, but shocked the world to claim a 43-31 victory at Twickenham.

France started the game the better of the two sides, before the world's greatest wing - the late, great Jonah Lomu - took over.

Lomu did what Lomu did best, smashing his way over for two tries on either side of half-time to give New Zealand a 14-point lead.

But two drop goals to first-five Christophe Lamaison kick-started a French surge never seen before.

Richard Dourthe
Richard Dourthe scores for France at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Photo credit: Retuers

He added two penalties, before a sensational Christophe Dominici try put the French back into a lead that they never let go.

The All Blacks were utterly helpless and could only watch as France threw caution to the wind, scoring a further two tries to complete a stunning comeback.

Richard Dourthe was the beneficiary of another clever kick through, as the centre pounced on the ball to score the try.

Phillipe Bernat-Salles finally put the game to bed, after an All Blacks mix-up on the French 22m saw the ball hacked through by Olivier Magne, who out-sprinted Jeff Wilson to dot down.

On the verge of comfortable victory, New Zealand instead threw away the lead and were relegated to playing catch-up rugby, but were never able to recover.


1994: Try from the end of the world

If one try defines French flair, it's the one scored by Jean-Luc Sadourny against the All Blacks in 1994, latter dubbed as 'the try from the end of the world'.

Having beaten New Zealand 22-8 in Christchurch a week earlier, France had a rare opportunity to claim a series win over the All Blacks in the second test at Eden Park.

For 77 minutes of the match, it didn’t look likely, as New Zealand held a narrow lead, and looked set to escape with the win, and a drawn series.

Then something miraculous happened - 30 seconds of magic. France ran 80 metres from one side to the other, passing through nine sets of hands, before Sadourny went over.

About as the 44,000 fans at the ground could only watch in despair and disbelief.

Jean-Luc Sadourny
Jean-Luc Sadourny scored the try from the end of the world. Photo credit: Reuters

Quality rugby aside, the fact the French were able to produce such an effort with their backs against the wall and with a series on the line was truly remarkable.

Twenty-four years later, that defeat still stands as the last time the All Blacks have lost on Eden Park.

But the series was famous for many other reasons, besides the try.

Lomu made his debut in Christchurch at the age of 19 years and 45 days, becoming the youngest- ever All Black.

The teenager was found wanting in the series, but would make his comeback at the 1995 Rugby World Cup - and the rest, as they say, is history.

Despite heading into the series as underdogs, French legend and centurion on the night, Phillipe Sella said they felt 'invincible' and they thought of themselves as the All Blacks, before stunning the hosts.


1986: The Battle of Nantes

This New Zealand's defeat in 1986 to France was as heart-breaking as it was ball-breaking.

Despite the resounding 16-3 loss in Nantes and the subsequent drawn series, hard man Buck Shelford stole the show and hit the headlines.

In just his second test, Shelford got caught at bottom of a ruck and had his scrotum ripped open, leaving him with one testicle hanging free.

Nobody would have blamed him for asking to be replaced, but instead, he famously ordered the team doctor to stitch him up and he carried on playing.

Buck Shelford
Buck Shelford has reason to remember the Battle of Nantes Photo credit: Photosport

He would eventually be forced to exit the game with concussion after being concussed, but he would forever live in All Black folklore.

It was later revealed that many of the French players consumed amphetamines before the game, and were unrecognisable from their 19-7 defeat to the All Blacks the previous week prior.

Shelford still remembers the clash as the toughest match of his career and always suspected the French of taking drugs.

"When I came out of the tunnel and I saw them, I looked into the eyes of many of the players as I walked past them, and their eyes did not say that they were going into a game against the All Blacks," he told Radio New Zealand.

"Their eyes just looked like they were on something, and I could not prove it."

With the odds stacked against them, the All Blacks were unable to overcome the disadvantage and succumbed to defeat.


1979: Bastille Day battle

What a better way to celebrate Bastille Day than with a win on New Zealand soil.

Heading into the second test of France's 1979 tour of New Zealand, France they had already been beaten by Waikato, Southland and the All Blacks in first test.

But the second test would set the tone for future encounters between the two nations.

France completely upstaged the All Blacks, winning 24-19 in front of a packed Eden Park.

Team lists

A valiant French side held on to claim their first away victory over New Zealand.

At one point, they held a 14-point lead, but despite a fast-finishing New Zealand side that boasted the likes of skipper Graham Mourie, Stu Wilson and Andy Dalton, the French wouldn’t be denied.

Such was the magnitude of the victory, Paris producer Nicholas Mucchielli is making a 40th anniversary film on the events.

Reece Labuschagne is a Newshub sports producer.

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