Major teams: Biarritz
Test span: 1980-91
Test caps: 93 (93 starts)
Test points: 233 (38T, 6C, 21P, 2DG)
Rugby’s Greatest: Serge Blanco
The Eighties were the halcyon of French rugby, where players wearing le coq would play with careless abandon, verve and a certain je ne sais quoi. Fitting the bill perfectly was Serge Blanco.
Born in Caracas to a Venezuelan mother, Blanco was nevertheless raised in the rugby hotbed of Biarritz where, as a proud Basque, he stayed for his entire career, going on to become the president of the club. Blessed with the pace of a wing, ability to counter from anywhere on the field and a fiery temperament, Blanco was a dangerous adversary who went on to win 93 caps.
Not the most vigorous defender, he routinely turned defence into attack, scoring 38 Test tries – still a French record 24 years after calling it a day. After winning Grand Slams in both 1981 and 1987, his most famous score came in the first World Cup against Australia where he smoked – he did like his Gitnes – the covering Australian defence in the dying minutes of the semi-final to go over in the corner and put France into the final.
Another Blanco classic was as the catalyst for one of the greatest tries ever witnessed. With a typical cavalier attitude, he broke out from behind his try-line at Twickenham to spark a move that finished with Phillipe Saint-Andre sprinting in under the posts, 100m upfield.
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Blanco’s Test farewell, however, was a disappointment as France lost to England in the RWC 1991 quarter-finals with Blanco as captain. Post-rugby, he still has a huge influence on French rugby as an administrator. He was a long-term president of the Ligue National de Rugby (LNR) and recently joined Saint-Andre’s coaching set-up as an unofficial adviser to help the misfiring French back-line.
Commerce, too, has been kind to him as the former mechanic now boasts a business empire that includes a clothing range, and a luxury hotel chain. Mercurial and enigmatic, Blanco had a presence few could match.