André Boniface, artisan of “French flair” and legend of French rugby, has died

Andre Boniface artisan of French flair and legend of French

André Boniface, architect of “French flair”, which characterized the play of the French team from the 1960s, died at Bayonne hospital at the age of 89 this Monday, April 8.

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André Boniface was the figure of this “French” way of playing rugby born in the 1960s. Another century, another era of this sport. The former three-quarter center of Mont-de-Marsan, legend of French rugby with an elegant game, died Monday at the age of 89 at Bayonne hospital, AFP learned from his family.

Selected 48 times in the tricolor jersey between 1954 and 1966, the genius of the XV of France won four Five Nations Tournaments for eleven participations. Competition in which he often shone alongside his younger brother Guy. The two have been aligned together 17 times in the French team, and many more within the formation of Stade Montois, their lifelong club.

The memory will remain, for sports fans, of an athlete with extraordinary speed and champion of an offensive game made of one on one and skillful passes, achieved with great dexterity. In two words, “French flair”, an expression coming from England, a rare occurrence, a bit envious, in sixtiesin the last hours of the amateurism of the French XV.

And a loyalty to the yellow and black jersey of Mont-de-Marsan, which André, the eldest, joined after only a few matches played with Dax and which the Boniface siblings will hoist to the Grail: the only Shield in 1963, facing… neighboring enemy Dacquois, after two finals lost in 1953 and 1959. “ What we were looking for was line playe, deciphered the eldest Boniface in The world in 1999. Before getting to this point, a huge amount of work was required. Style came only from work, not from chance. The pass, for example, was a daily concern, like the pianist’s scales. »


We sometimes spent hours doing and redoing movements, combinations on a corner of the table with glasses, salt shakers, whatever came to hand. », recounted the man who was part of the first French team to win over the All Blacks (3-0) in 1954.

The case of the Boniface brothers, the “Boni” was still divided in the oval. Little appreciated by the leaders of French rugby, André and Guy, had their support in the press. And their stormy history with the XV of France reached its epilogue in 1966, after a 9-8 defeat against Wales which deprived the Blues of a victory in the Tournament, the first that the two brothers could have shared.

A bell pass from Jean Gachassin, intended for André, was intercepted by Welshman Stuart Watkins who then raced to the goal. Enough to knock out the French who were leading 8-6 a few minutes from the end of the match – a try was then worth three points.

Firing three players after an intercepted pass is unique. In fact, it had nothing to do with the pass », lamented, bitterly, André Boniface in the Team in 2016. The selectors were fed up with us. They couldn’t stand us anymore. My appearance, my personality bothered them a lot. My outspokenness too. »