Jean Prat

'Monsieur Rugby'

When the final whistle blew in the last game of the Five Nations Championship in 1955 the Welsh players were delighted with their 16-11 victory over France in Paris. Not only did it mean a share of the title, they had also denied the French their first Grand Slam. But, instead of celebrating among themselves, they walked over to the French captain, lifted him shoulder-high and carried him off the Stade Colombes pitch. Such was the high esteem in which Jean Prat was held in world rugby.

Jean Prat, rugby player: born Lourdes, France 1 August 1923; died Tarbes, France 25 February 2005.

When the final whistle blew in the last game of the Five Nations Championship in 1955 the Welsh players were delighted with their 16-11 victory over France in Paris. Not only did it mean a share of the title, they had also denied the French their first Grand Slam. But, instead of celebrating among themselves, they walked over to the French captain, lifted him shoulder-high and carried him off the Stade Colombes pitch. Such was the high esteem in which Jean Prat was held in world rugby.

Earlier that season Prat had dropped two goals at Twickenham - a record for an international forward in a match that still stands today - to provide France with only their second victory at the home of English rugby, and earn himself the nickname of "Monsieur Rugby" from the English press.

For a full decade after the Second World War Prat was synonymous with the growing strength and spirit of French rugby. A back-row forward who was quick to the breakdown, sure in the tackle and had a keen eye for a break, he played 51 times for his country. He became the first French player to reach a half-century of caps, the first Frenchman to reach 100 Test points and he captained his country no fewer than 17 times.

Of all his honours he gathered during his career perhaps the one he most cherished was being named as the scorer of the try that helped France defeat the All Blacks for the first time in 1954. That year was a vintage one for French rugby: France won seven of their eight games, and shared the championship. In all, Prat scored nine tries in a 139 haul of international points. He also dropped five goals and was his side's main goalkicker.

His first Test came against the Allied forces on New Year's Day 1945 at Parc des Princes in Paris and his last game for France was against Italy in Grenoble. In 18 of his 51 Tests he played with his younger brother Maurice, who was at centre; the family double-act were at the core of their home-town team, Lourdes, which dominated the French Championship, winning six French titles in the Forties and Fifties and being three times runners-up. After retiring as a player, Prat went into coaching; he was in charge of the French team from 1963 to 1967.

He spent the majority of his life in his native Lourdes and went into partnership with his brother in running a hotel.

Rob Cole

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