Jean Prat was one of the greatest blindside flankers to ever play, the Frenchman scored 144 points in 51 Tests
Major teams: Lourdes
Test span: 1945-55
Test caps: 51 (51 starts)
Test points: 144 (9T, 27C, 15P, 6DG)
French rugby suffered an inferiority complex as international rugby’s ‘also-rans’ for nearly 50 years before Jean Prat became their skipper in 1953. The olive-skinned, Lourdes-born flanker was the leader they had been crying out for and Five Nations glory soon materialised.
Prat’s credentials for captaincy were impeccable. He had already inspired the miracle city to two French club titles before picking up the national reins, while as a seasoned Test player of courage, determination and stamina – legacies of his rural upbringing and experience as a cross-country runner – he led by example.
Early in his tenure France recorded their first success against the All Blacks, Prat himself scoring the only try of a Paris win in 1954, and three Five Nations victories that season conferred (shared) Championship honours on France for the first time.
There was another shared title in 1955 when Prat took them to the brink of a Grand Slam, Wales depriving them of the holy grail at the end of the season. He instigated a tight-marking policy with an attacking base off the back row, but his exhortations to do this, that and everything sometimes left colleagues bewildered. At Twickenham, prop Amédée Domenech felt so overwhelmed that, finding himself unexpectedly in possession, he threw the ball at his captain remarking: “Here, what can you do with it?” Prat dropped a goal to seal a 16-9 victory!
All told, Prat won 51 caps for France between 1945 and 1955, scoring 144 Test points (a then-record for a forward) and was remarkably adept at dropping goals. After retirement, he coached Lourdes to further successes, was France’s technical adviser for a famous Test win in South Africa in 1964 and was so revered by his countrymen that they called him “Monsieur Rugby”. No Frenchman was ever more deserving of the title.