"Le Crunch" - Six Most Memorable England vs France Matches Ahead of Six Nations Finale - Ruck

“Le Crunch” – Six Most Memorable England vs France Matches Ahead of Six Nations Finale

England and France are set to close out the 2024 Six Nations, with the latest iteration of ‘Le Crunch’ ready to take centre stage in Lyon. The contest had generated many memorable and infamous matches, with the early 90s in particular seeing the fixture better resemble an out-right brawl than a game of rugby.

Throughout their decorated history, England and France have met 110 times on a rugby pitch. The first meeting took place in 1906, and was a 8-35 away victory for England, in Paris’ Parc des Princes. Since then, England have gone on to lead the all-time record over their rivals, with 60 victories, compared to France’s 43.

Here are five historical hallmarks of the two vicious rivals, beginning of course with the fabled ‘red mist’ of 1992.

  1. France 13- 31 England 1992 Five Nations Championship.

Tensions between England and France had reached a fever-pitch, ahead of their 1992 meeting at the Parc des Princes. Throughout the late 80s, France were running a mockery of England, with six unanswered wins. The sides met twice in 1991, as England retaliated with Five Nations and Rugby World Cup quarter-final triumphs.

Each of those matches brought physically aggressive undertones, with the 1992 meeting seeing the two sides reach boing point. For the first time in a Five Nations match, two players were sent off in the same game. For the time, this was the mark of a truly brutal contest, as red cards were much rarer to come by than in the modern game. The meeting in Paris is considered to be the most violent rugby match of all time, and can certainly back up the claims.

The 1992 Five Nations title hung in the balance, and Brian Moore previewed the match by stating how violence would be ‘inevitable’ in Paris. ‘Pitbull’ was right, with the matches’ iconic moment being the altercation between Olivier Roumat and Wade Dooley. Roumat had punched Dooley unconscious, forcing the lock briefly off the field. As he left, Dooley insisted to the referee to not send Roumat off, so that Dooley could get his revenge later in the game.

The referee obliged Dooley’s wishes, and Roumat went unpunished. The aforementioned duo of red cards went to France’s Gregoire Lascube and Vincent Moscato, for sinnacle offenses that caused two mass brawls in Paris. Lascube stamped on the head of Martin Bayfield, and Moscato repeatedly headbutted Jeff Probyn, with both players recieving 28-week bans!

2. England 12 – 19 France: 2011 Rugby World Cup Semi-Final

This was the long-awaited match for French rugby fans, as ‘Les Bleus’ finally overcame their old rivals at the Rugby World Cup. England had enjoyed a successful track record against France at the World Cup, stemming back to the earlier mentioned 1991 quarter-final victory.

England followed this up with semi-final success in 2003, as their 24-7 victory over France took them to the final, with Jonny Wilkinson’s iconic drop goal bringing home the William Web Ellis Trophy. England repeated this feat in 2007, as they once again eliminated France from the Rugby World Cup, at the semi-final stage. This victory was even more bittersweet, as it took place in Paris.

Yet 2011 told a different story, as England and France met for a fourth consecutive time in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals. A shocking victory at the time, as France were seemingly self-imploding. A pool stage loss to Tonga saw France Head Coach Marc Lievremont heavily criticise his players in the mid-week media. However, France opened the scoring with 16 unanswered points, including Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard’s tries.

England attempted to forge a second half comeback, yet Mark Cueto’s try came too late for Martin Johnson’s side. Johnson’s contract as England Head Coach expired just one month later, with Staurt Lancaster taking over the reigns until after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.