Flair is synonymous with French rugby. Since the beginning of the millennium Les Bleus have scored some of the most elaborate and unforgettable tries in Guinness Six Nations rugby.
From Fickou to Fofana, Dominici to Debaty, France have certainly left plenty of jaws on the floors in stadiums across Europe. Let’s take a look at some of their finest…
Gérald Merceron v England, 2002
Les Bleus claimed the first Grand Slam of the Six Nations era back in 2002 with a team packed full of attacking flair, with fly-half Gérald Merceron pulling the strings.
It was the fly-half who scored the opening try in the Round 3 win over England that effectively sealed the title.
Current France coach Fabien Galthié started the move, dummying and breaking off the back of a scrum before finding Imanol Harinordoquy on his shoulder. The rampaging No.8 charged into the 22 and then fed Merceron, who had the legs to go under the posts and set France on their way to a 20-15 win over the defending champions.
Jean-Baptiste Elissalde v Wales, 2004
Back in the day, Serge Betsen was exactly the kind of player one didn’t want to come up against. His physicality, nous and relentless work rate caused havoc for his opponents.
And there is no better example than his work to set up Jean-Baptiste Elissalde against Wales in 2004. Despite Wales’ put-in at the scrum, the flanker put No.8 Ryan Jones under enormous pressure at the rear.
It enabled Betsen to scoop up the loose ball and feed Elissalde with an audacious offload. The scrum-half then out-sprinted full-back Gareth Thomas to the line for an unforgettable score.
Christophe Dominici v Ireland, 2005
Christophe Dominici was the ultimate finisher for France from the end of the 90s through into the mid-2000s.
In 2005 against Ireland, the winger capped off a wonderful move involving Benoit Baby, Julien Laharrague and Cedric Heymans.
Vincent Clerc v Ireland, 2007
Imagine the occasion. The historic Croke Park was hosting Ireland’s first rugby match and they lead France 17-13 with seconds remaining.
You can envision how broken-hearted the Ireland supporters were when Vincent Clerc superbly glided past four defenders to cross over underneath the posts. The build-up play was impressive, too, with France reclaiming the ball from a restart, probing down the right before coming back left for Clerc to burst through.
A finale fit for any Championship contest. And it proved to be quite a significant moment for Les Bleus as they went onto win the title that year on points difference from Ireland.
Mathieu Bastareaud v Scotland, 2010
Mathieu Bastareaud was a wrecking ball of a player. He steamrolled opponents for fun like a train which never ran out of coal.
At Murrayfield in 2010, the powerful centre dominated Scotland all afternoon. The standout moment was the second of his two tries, where he displayed speed as well as power to cross over the line.
His swaggering contribution helped France to a 19-8 victory over Scotland and helped his side to the Grand Slam title.
Wesley Fofana v England, 2013
At one point in time, Wesley Fofana was among the most dangerous finishers in international rugby. While he retired from international rugby last year, turn the clock back to 2013 and Fofana scored one of the great individual tries against England at Twickenham.
Picking the ball up 70 metres out, Fofana used his scintillating pace to evade five English defenders on the way to the try line. It proved to be his finest moment in a France jersey.
Gael Fickou v England, 2014
Another last-gasp try worthy of winning any rugby match.
Trailing by five points with just over three minutes left on the clock, teenager Gaël Fickou sent the Stade de France into bedlam.
Replacement hooker Dimitri Szarzewski provided Fickou, who had only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes, with the ball 30 metres out on the left wing.
He glided to the tryline, evading Alex Goode and strolling in underneath the posts leaving Maxime Machenaud a simple conversion as France ran out 26-24 winners.
Vincent Debaty v England, 2015
A 90-point thriller to conclude the 2015 Championship was not to be missed. The game epitomised free-running rugby to an absolute tee, but it was Vincent Debaty’s second-half score which caught the eye at Twickenham on that day.
A stunning outside break by Noa Nakaitaci from deep inside France’s half left England struggling defensively. The winger then precisely offloaded the ball to prop Debaty, who showed superb stamina to run a perfect supporting line and hold off George Ford to the line.
Teddy Thomas v Ireland, 2018
Against Ireland in 2018, Teddy Thomas announced himself on the Six Nations stage. The dynamic winger was on fire and recorded his first try in the competition – and it was one to remember.
A quick lineout enabled Thomas to strike and he did so with an ingenious run. First swerving inside past Rob Kearney, then leaving a trio of backs – Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls – in his wake for good measure on the way to a jaw-dropping score.
It gave France a one-point lead with nine minutes remaining only for Sexton to have the last laugh with his 83rd-minute drop goal.