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Jean-Pierre Bastiat

Jean-Pierre Bastiat formed part of a formidable France back row in the 19703

French legend Bastiat passes away

French rugby is mourning the passing of former captain and No 8 Jean-Pierre Bastiat at the age of 71, the man who brought his team to Cardiff for the first Grand Slam shoot-out in the history of the tournament in 1978.

As Welsh fans prepare for the launch of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations this weekend, many will still recall the great day 43 years ago when Phil Bennett led his side to a 16-7 win over the French at Cardiff Arms Park to secure a third Grand Slam of the decade.

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In the Seventies it was Wales and France who dominated the then Five Nations. They shared the title in 1970, Wales won the Grand Slam in 1971, 1976 and 1978 and France in 1977. There was a five way tie in 1973 and Wales also came out on top in 1979.

Bastiat was one of the giants of an era when the French packs had an uncompromising reputation. At 6’ 6” tall, and weighing in at 17 ½ stones, he was equally at home in the second row as he was at No 8.

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He played 32 times for France between 1969 and 1978, taking over the captaincy from Jacques Fouroux in his final year of Test rugby. With Jean-Claude Skrela and Jean-Pierre Rives he formed one of the greatest back rows in French, and Five Nations, history.

A former basketball player, he was a great line-out option for club and country, a capable goal-kicker and became a legendary figure at club side Dax. He played five times against Wales during his career, but only tasted victory once.
That came in 1977 when he was part of a Grand Slam team that remained the same throughout all four fixtures. When he brought the team to Cardiff a year later chasing back-to-back Grand Slams, France had already beaten England 15-6, Scotland 19-16 and Ireland 10-9.

It meant that when they arrived at the Arms Park on 18 March, 1978, everything was on the line. It was a game in which the French took the lead with a Skrela try before Welsh skipper Bennett replied with two of his own to steer his team to victory.
That game brought down the curtain on the international careers of Bastiat, who retired later that year with a knee injury, Bennett and his half-back partner Gareth Edwards. Three Musketeers of the Five Nations who will remain giant figures in the history of the tournament.

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