Major teams: Lourdes
Test span: 1983-90
France caps: 42 (41 starts)
Test points: 0
Obstinate. It’s the only way to describe tighthead Jean-Pierre Garuet’s approach to the scrummage. France is a nation that adores the flat-backed, hairy brutes who relish tight exchanges and in Garuet they had a king amongst monsters.
Like so many fabled players, after some revision Garuet’s general play has been reduced to one aspect: for him it was the set-piece. But since his Test debut in 1983 he was so good at it.
Technically superb and indefatigable whenever the restart was needed, so many of his former Five Nations adversaries have remarked on his prowess. After every tour the opposition remarked on how he could almost single-handedly tear a scrum apart, and he played a major role in guiding France to the 1987 World Cup final.
He was unapologetically tough, too. Trailblazer may be the wrong word, but Garuet certainly is a man for a first as no Frenchman had received a red card in a Test before he came along. In 1984 he made a play for Ireland flanker John O’Driscoll’s eye. The prop was slammed with a three-month ban and brandished “a fool” by his own president, but he worked hard to repair his Test reputation.
That didn’t mean backing down – in the infamous ‘Battle of Nantes’, as France defeated New Zealand 16-3, the prop was the man who knocked Buck Shelford out cold when he flew into the Kiwi at a ruck.
He was not shy of afters, old Garuet, but this is perhaps borne out of a deep and compelling loyalty. He would fight to the death for his side. This is evidenced by his club career: Garuet only ever played for Lourdes, his home town, and played one last season for the side at the age of 38, a year after France stopped picking him.
When Britain’s Daily Mail chose a Best-ever Six Nations XV last year, Garuet was installed at No 3. “He was a brute of a tighthead who combined technical excellence at the set-piece with bullish strength in the loose,” they wrote. “French packs have possessed some great props down the years but Garuet was arguably the greatest of the lot.”
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