France’s greatest Guinness Six Nations matches at the Stade de France

The Stade de France has played host to its fair share of iconic rugby matches through the years.

The Stade de France has played host to its fair share of iconic rugby matches through the years.

Since opening in 1998, the over 80,000-capacity stadium has been the regular home of France’s Guinness Six Nations encounters.

Les Bleus have sealed four Grand Slams on its soil, as well as played out a number of other matches that continue to live long in the memory.

This Friday, France will kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign at home against New Zealand, so ahead of that blockbuster, here are some of France’s greatest Guinness Six Nations wins at the Stade de France.

1998 – France 24-17 England

The stadium’s opening night proved a winning one for Les Bleus, as they beat England en route to sealing back-to-back Grand Slams.

Just over 77,000 descended on Saint-Denis to see Philippe Bernat-Salles take the honour of scoring the stadium’s first try after just 11 minutes.

It proved the platform for a successful inauguration of their new home, as another try from Christophe Dominici, the boot of Christophe Lamaison and drop goals from Thomas Castaignède and Jean-Luc Sadourny overcame a Neil Back try and four Paul Grayson penalties for the visitors.

2002 – France 20-15 England

England had their revenge two years later, as five Jonny Wilkinson penalties kicked them to a first victory at the Stade de France in 2000 on their way to the Championship.

But France returned to winning ways in Le Crunch with a 20-15 victory that was more dominant than the final scoreline would suggest. It is best remembered for Serge Betsen’s relentless pursuit of Wilkinson, giving the fly-half no time to control proceedings as he had so often done against France.

A blistering opening 20 minutes saw Les Bleus race into a 17-0 lead thanks to tries from Gérald Merceron and Imanol Harinordoquy before a fine solo try from Jason Robinson kept England in it.

But France were ultimately always in control, stretching their lead to 20-10 before a last-minute try from Ben Cohen added some gloss to the scoreline for the visitors.

This was a first win over England since the Stade de France’s opening game in 1998 and kept the Grand Slam dream alive.

2002 – France 44-5 Ireland

That dream would be realised four weeks later as France powered past Ireland 44-5 to clinch the first Grand Slam in the Six Nations era.

Serge Betsen and Nicolas Brusque both scored a pair of tries as Les Bleus earned a record victory over Ireland, and a third Grand Slam in six years with apparent ease.

Aurélien Rougerie grabbed the other try while the boot of Merceron continued to widen the margin of victory, with a Keith Wood try the sole Irish contribution to the scoreboard.

The opportunity to win a Grand Slam at home is one that is seldom offered up to players; it is one that is rarely taken with such style as France in 2002 either.

2004 – France 24-21 England

The chance to seal a Grand Slam on home soil is a rare one, but it would come around again for France just two years on from their last.

This time it was world champions England standing in the way, with the title still up for grabs for both sides despite the visitors’ earlier defeat to Ireland.

But if the result was not as emphatic as it was two years previous, the outcome was ultimately the same as another Grand Slam party erupted in Paris.

Just like two years before, France raced into an early lead and led 21-3 at half-time as a try from Harinordoquy complemented Dimitri Yachvili’s 19-point haul that included a try of his own just before the break.

England fought back through Ben Cohen before Josh Lewsey dotted down four minutes from time to set up a nervy ending, but the hosts held on to seal a famous night.

2010 – France 33-10 Ireland

After four Grand Slams in eight years, it would be another six before Les Bleus once again swept all before them.

The final win once again came against England at the Stade de France, as Morgan Parra and François Trinh-Duc kicked to a 12-10 victory but it was the 33-10 triumph over Ireland a few weeks earlier that was most decisive.

Ireland had just a single win at the Stade de France to their name heading into the encounter, a 27-25 victory in 2000, but looked well set to change that a decade on.

Declan Kidney’s men arrived as defending Grand Slam champions led by the likes of Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara but the past made way for the future, as France ended Irish hopes of back-to-back Slams and ignited dreams of their own with a dominant showing.

First-half tries from William Servat and Yannick Jauzion put the hosts in control before a third from Clément Poitrenaud put the result beyond doubt on the hour despite David Wallace touching down for Ireland.

2017 – France 20-18 Wales

Rugby matches are not meant to last 100 minutes, but France used all the time on offer to register a memorable win over Wales.

It had been almost six years since Les Bleus last beat Warren Gatland’s side, as they broke Welsh hearts in the semi-final of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Wales had held the upper hand since then, sealing a Grand Slam of heir own in 2012, but France finally earned a long overdue victory in the most dramatic of circumstances.

An early Rémi Lamerat try was the perfect start for the hosts but Leigh Halfpenny’s accuracy from the tee kept Wales in touch and pushed them into a five-point lead with time ticking away.

The clock had long turned red as France toiled away at the Welsh line and with the clock mere seconds from hitting a century, Damien Chouly scrambled over and Camille Lopez converted to seal victory.

2022 – France 25-13 England

If France fans had felt that the six years between 2004 and 2010 Grand Slams was a long time, the 12 years they had to wait for the next must have felt like a lifetime.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and there was certainly evidence of that at the Stade de France in 2022 as Les Bleus produced an emphatic victory over England to clinch their tenth Slam.

Gaël Fickou’s 14th-minute try was the perfect way to settle any Parisian nerves before François Cros crossed a minute before the break to put Fabien Galthié’s men in the box seat.

A second-half Freddie Steward try did briefly stir notions of England spoiling the party, but skipper Antoine Dupont sealed victory with a try on the hour to indelibly mark France’s return to the top table.