From The Vaults

20 February 2023
Le Classique - France v Scotland

Perhaps offering some hope to modern day Italy fans, it would take France almost 50 years to win the Five Nations Championship outright, in 1959. However, their first taste of success came in just their second season. Their opening match of the 1911 season was at home to Scotland at the Stade Colombes in Paris.

At the time the SRU did not award caps for matches against France, regarding the fixture as something of a training match ahead of stiffer fixtures. However, they were in for a shock. Despite accidentally leaving their star player Charles Vareilles at Melun Station (he had hopped off the train for a sandwich), France put in a strong showing in front of home support at Stade Colombes.

A try by scrum-half Guillaume Laterrade cancelled out an early Scottish try, before Paul Descamps' conversion gave France the lead. Further tries from Pierre Failliot and fly-half Georges Peyroutou stretched the French lead to 11-3, before Scotland commenced their comeback.

A converted try and dropped goal either side of half-time restored Scotland's lead 12-11 but France were not done. Wing Faillot went over again and Descamps converted to give France a 16-12 lead, triggering riotous acclaim among French supporters.

Scotland came back again with a try by Cecil Abercrombie, but full back Borth Todd missed the conversion that would have given them the lead. In the final minute Scotland knocked-on from a try scoring position and France held on for their first test victory, 16-15.

It was a result that electrified French rugby and from then on, the Scotland match, was one of the most anticipated contests on the French sporting calendar. This is referenced on the cover of 'Le Petit Journal' 11 years later, which refers to the contest as perhaps the most popular test.