Martin Bayfield recalls ‘rugby’s most violent match’ in iconic England win over France

The former Lions rugby player remembered the 5 Nations match in 1992 during an interview at the Henley Literary Festival

Jack Rathborn
Wednesday 04 October 2023 09:14 BST
Martin Bayfield has spoken about his new book A Very Tall Story at the Henley Literary Festival
Martin Bayfield has spoken about his new book A Very Tall Story at the Henley Literary Festival (Getty Images)

Martin Bayfield has recalled starring in one of the most violent rugby matches of all time for England against France during a conversation at the Henley Literary Festival.

The English actor, broadcaster, and former rugby union player, 56, was interviewed by journalist John Hopkins at the annual event, for which The Independent is an exclusive news partner. Bayfield discusses his time with England and the British and Irish Lions – among other topics – in his latest book, A Very Tall Story.

Bayfield, who was capped 34 times for the Red Rose, and toured New Zealand with the British Lions in 1993, falling 2-1 to the All Blacks but appearing in three Tests, retold the story about one of the craziest test matches in rugby history, a 31-13 win in France on their way to a grand slam in the 1992 five nations.

“It was a period of time when England had huge success over the French, in 1992, since the 1991 World Cup quarter-final, one of the most violent games, it’s a chance for France to have payback. We had won our first two games, back-to-back grand slams. At the Parc des Princes, my favourite stadium ever, amazing place,” recalls Bayfield.

“The French are terrifying, they look amazing, they sound terrifying, the stadium is incredible and the atmosphere was numbing. The front row were covered in blood after headbutting each other. They look awesome. Olivier Roumat, Wade Dooley's opposite number. Nobody came out on top against Wade.

“Olivier had to think outside the box, punched Wade, knocked him unconscious. It was astonishing because he did it during the anthems. Wade got up. The referee came over to Olivier and shook his hand. We thought that was unusual.

“He looked at the ref and said, ‘do not send that f***er off’. We thought this will be a good game. We should be fine and we were absolutely fine.

“It was a violent game. They ran us ragged for the first 20 minutes. Then we got an early try and they turned on themselves, the French will lose the plot and the crowd will go against them. I’m at the bottom of the ruck, this guy Gregoire Lascube stamps on my head, it rings the bell. Brian Moore says, ‘stay down, we’ll get this f***er off’.

“I’m lying there and he’s off. Then there’s a scrum, Jeff Probyn, just the most annoying man, a horrible individual, starts to wind up the opposite number. As the scrum goes down, they try to headbutt the English front row. The referee warns them again, then at the next scrum, Jeff blows them a kiss and it all kicks off, headbutt, two sent off! We win in France. We enjoyed ourselves after the game. It was astonishing.”

Henley Literary Festival continues until 8 October.

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