When the name Waterloo is mentioned most people automatically think of one of three things, the battle, the station or ABBA.
France arrived at St Pancras terminus ahead of their Six Nations match against England, the previously mentioned station might have been too much of an omen for a heartbroken team, who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory a week earlier at stade de France against Wales.
1815 was the year in which the Battle of Waterloo took place, at 1815 yesterday Twickenham was pretty much empty, with the exception of a few folk dressed in white and blue, the differing emotions shown in the opposing colours could not have been more contrasting.
A crest fallen French supporter dropped his plastic pint glass as he walked disconsolately away down Rugby Road, the stylish way in which he re-gathered it at ankle height showed more desire and artistry than his national team had displayed all afternoon.
The old cliche “Which France will turn up” was totally negated yesterday when one failed to show up at all.
Down in the South of France, at the Bar de l’esplanade in Tonneins, the locals must have looked on with a mixture of disbelief and melancholy, there was a time when one of their own sons strode the field of dreams, a time when France strutted their stuff with a certain panache and Elan, they ran at angles that Pythagoras would have swooned at, those were the days mon ami.
Tonneins is an unremarkable town in the Lot-Et-Garonne department of France, until the early 2000’s it was the tobacco capital of France, but now the town that stands above the river Garonne between Marmande and Agen has an agricultural emphasis producing maize, rapeseed and sunflowers.
An unremarkable town, maybe, but in 1962 it produced one truly remarkable rugby player, Phillipe Sella, the Prince of Centres who played 111 times for France scoring 125 points from 30 tries.
Phillipe Sella and I were both born on February 14th, sadly that is where our similarities begin and end, if only I had been granted an ounce of the sheer rugby magic he possessed then I would have been truly blessed.
His French debut came in Bucharest on Sunday 31 October 1982 in a 13-9 defeat to Romania, to add injury to insult he had to spend the night in hospital with concussion following the match.
In his 111 appearances for Les Bleus he tasted victory on 72 occasions drawing 5 times and losing 34 matches, France won six Five Nations titles during his reign, including a Grand Slam in 1987.
Phillipe’s final international appearance came on 22 June 1995 in Pretoria during the Rugby World Cup Third place play off match where France beat England 19-9.
Regarded as one of the world’s best ever centres it is sometimes forgotten that Sella played on the wing for his first seven games in the French shirt, before switching to the midfield for a glorious career where his centre partners included such illuminaries as Didier Cordoniou, Denis Charvet, Franc Mesnel and Thierry Lacroix.
In 1986 he scored Try in each of France’s 5 Nations matches, a remarkable feat achieved only by a very select few.
Phillipe Sella is “Mr Agen” he played for the club for thirteen years between 1982 and 1985 before heading across the channel for a spell with Saracens.
He retired from rugby in 1998 before heading home his beloved Agen, where he is currently director of rugby.
I’m not sure what state is lower than the doldrums, but France inhabit that area, in fact they own the lease, what they wouldn’t give for another best Sella.