Guy Basquet

Charismatic figure in French rugby

Guy Basquet, rugby player: born Layrac, France 13 July 1921; married (two sons, two daughters); died Agen, France 1 February 2006.

Guy Basquet can lay claim to being one of the most influential and inspirational figures in French rugby history. As well as being a charismatic leader on the field, he became a shrewd if sometimes controversial operator off it, as team manager of the national side and vice-president of the French Rugby Federation.

He wrote his name into the French rugby history books by scoring a try in his country's first wins on Welsh and English soil in 1948 and 1951, two against Australia in the first French win over a Dominions team in 1948 and another on their first triumph at Murrayfield over Scotland in 1952.

The Agen No 8 was also captain of the Tricolours on all three occasions and led his country a record 24 times. From the time of his début on 22 December 1945, he missed only one game, due to injury in Argentina, before his retirement following a win over Italy in Milan on 17 May 1952.

By the end of his career, he had led France to victory in all the home unions and helped to drag French rugby up by its bootstraps to become a credible force on the international stage. He formed a formidable back-row trio with Jean Prat and Jean Mattheu, with whom he played a world-record 22 times, a figure that wasn't beaten until Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back and Richard Hill surpassed it for England.

Basquet won the first of his 33 caps in the "Victory" international against Wales in 1945 and was ever-present over the next seven years. As well as scoring one of the two tries at Twickenham that gave France a historic 11-3 win on 24 February 1951, he also scored in championship wins over Wales in Swansea in 1948, against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in 1949 and Scotland at Murrayfield in 1952. He helped his club win the French Championship in 1945 and remained loyal to them throughout his life, being their president from 1985 until 1997. He also became president of the French Barbarians.

After hanging up his boots, he formed a remarkably powerful partnership with another Agen member, Albert Ferrasse, by taking firm control of the FFR (the French Rugby Federation). Basquet acted as vice-president to Ferrasse, who was not only president of the FFR but also of the European rugby body FIRA between 1985 and 1991. During that time, he became team manager of the French national side and was a key figure in developing the side that won France's first Grand Slam in 1968.

But as well as his many achievements, Basquet was also a highly controversial figure at times. He changed the style of play during his time as team manager and chairman of selectors, discarding many of the traditional playmakers, and ended up in a bitter feud with Ferrasse when the latter stepped down as president of the FFR in 1991.

Basquet wanted to remain in post and joined forces with another Agen clubmate, Albert Moga, in seeking re-election. They failed, and a long friendship turned sour. "He was angry with me, but I don't know why," said Ferrasse. "We knew each other for more than 50 years and I'd like to think that the duo of Ferrasse and Basquet will always be remembered."

Rob Cole

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