France Rugby League Team Legend Puig Aubert. I wanted to share this great retro feature. From the book ‘This is Rugby League’. Edited by Jack Pollard. And first published in 1962. Pollard’s introduction is followed by the legendary France Rugby League Captain Puig Aubert’s views on the game. A fascinating read.

Puig Aubert a Legend in France and Australia

Excitable, tearful Frenchman Puig-Aubert was post-war Rugby League’s most spectacular player. They called him “Pipette”. Because of his chain-smoking. But, beyond that tobacco cloud, there was a masterly football brain. He was perhaps the best-ever League exponent of the drop-kick. Moreover, habitually kicking them from halfway. And a mesmerising handler.

France Rugby League Team Showman

His showmanship was unashamed. And in big games, he was as unpredictable as a runaway firecracker. No man was ever harder to train. Crowded on his right foot. He could change feet and dropkick a goal with his left.
With a Test depending on the outcome. He could place the ball for a goalkick. Turn his back on it without marking out his paces. And casually swing around and kick the darned fool thing smack bang between the posts. Once in Sydney, he removed the corner post level with the uprights. Then placed the ball where the post had been. And sliced the ball over the bar. Mercifully, France has had trouble replacing him.

In Puig Aubert’s Own Words…

On the technique of the game. I am rather badly placed to speak. This topic has never occurred to me. Because I have always played my own game according to my own inspiration.
All that I can say on this subject is that for me who regards Rugby football as the game of games. I can conceive only a game based on attack. Because I believe it is more difficult to attack than to defend. Defence is to me a matter of one’s own volition. And I think that the 1951 French team proved this in Australia. Where we never played the “close” or “tight” game. Furthermore, this is the reason why we won nearly all our matches easily enough. By playing. an “open game” and concentrating on rapid passing of the ball.

Wrong Selection For The Kangaroos Against France Rugby League Team

I permit myself here just one criticism of the Australian Rugby League game. Which, in my opinion. With the talented players Australia possessed in 1951. Would have achieved much better results with quick passing. Rather than consistently using “shock tactics” which do not pay against a competent team.
For instance. During our Australian tour the best Australian centre. According to the French trainers and players was Gordon Willoughby,. Because he was classic. And did not use his physical strength to “rough it up” except when he had no alternative.

We Shocked Australia Rugby League with our quick passing

The Australian selectors of that time preferred Noel Hazzard to Willoughby. But Hazzard was a player we Frenchmen would have regarded as second-class. We were very glad to have Hazzard as an opponent in the Third Test at Sydney. Because Hazzard used only his physical attributes. And played in the centre like a pile-driver. When he got possession of the ball. He drove straight ahead without thinking of passing the ball. It only called for one determined opponent to stop the attack.
Australians were shocked at our thirty to forty-yard passes. From one side of the field to the other. By our overhead passes. And passes through the legs. But if they confuse your rivals and you have confidence in their use. Why not?

“Pipette” Preferred Smoking To Training

Personally, I have never much-loved training. And I had to be forced to train in spite of the fact that had I had the desire to train conscientiously. I would certainly have improved my game enormously. Which I actually achieved in Australia. Where for four months we lived a well-regulated life of strict daily workouts. This regular, systematic training could not be undertaken in France by a League player. Because one must not forget that the income received from playing must be implemented by taking a job.
For me the ability to produce the unexpected. And to time your coup for a psychological moment always compensated for lack of wind. Or all those cigarettes I smoked.
Nevertheless, I consider training is essential in all sports. And (as far as possible) such training should be directed always at fostering that “love of the ball”. Which is obligatory if great performances are to be realised.

1951 France Rugby League Team v Australia Rugby League – Third Test

Before our Third Test at Sydney in 1951. Bob Samatan, who was the French trainer at that time. He made us play a soccer match. Instead of adhering to regulation Rugby League training. To the utter astonishment of Australian players present. But it achieved the aim of sharpening us without deadening our wits or tiring our limbs.
Kicking was the sole phase of training that I truly studied. And I used to practice place-kicks and drops by the hour. Here I wish to allow myself to give some advice to young Australian place-kickers.
I have always kicked a straight ball. Which I placed at an increasing incline towards me as the distance. I had to kick the ball increased, and I have always tried to make the kick impact the ball as low down as possible.

Dueling with Australia Rugby League Great Clive Churchill

For long-distance penalty kicks from fifty yards up. I have always used the dropkick. Because I think that although one gets less precision than in place-kicking. One gets much greater distance.
The most important thing is for a place-kicker to have complete self-confidence. And to avoid thinking too much about the importance of the kick he is about to make.
When the 1951 French team arrived in Australia. My old friend and opponent, Clive Churchill, was considered the best back in the world. And the French players themselves doubted the result of my duel with Churchill. My own confidence. However, never failed me,. And every time I met Churchill I think I did just as well as he did. Some said better. I learned subsequently from Australian players that he was tense every time he met me on the field. Sometimes even sick from nervousness.

Puig Aubert’s Relaxed Attitude

I take the opportunity here to emphasise the enormous value of Churchill. And I transmit my most friendly greeting to him and to all the Australian players whom I met. Including, (Davies, Holman, Hall, Crocker, Stanmore, Wells, Flannery, Pidding, Willoughby, and all the rest).
My own relaxed attitude was so apparent. That in the first match played at Sydney and on the occasion of my first kick. After the ball was in position, as was my habit, I walked away with my back to the ball. And then turned. During this short space of time, I heard the public laugh. But happily, for me, it did not laugh often during my tour of Australia. Where I broke records, notably Daily Messenger’s record.
I believe that the Cricket Ground at Sydney is the easiest ground in the world for kicking. It seemed as though it was impossible to miss there.

1951 France Rugby League Team Defeating Brisbane

Against Brisbane in Brisbane. With five minutes to play. And the score standing at Brisbane 16, France 15, I had to pull off a penalty kick of fifty-five yards. I succeeded and our side won 17 to 16. It was my own confidence in myself that caused me to succeed. I have had scores of similar examples, Rarely missing these crucial winning kicks.
For all the French players. The matches we won during the 1951 tour were the more prized by us. Because on our arrival in Australia, after the victorious 1948 tour of the Kangaroos in France. The press and, as a direct result, the public, did not take us seriously. I bring to mind articles written by certain Sydney players. Which described us as “ballet dancers, champagne-swillers”, and so on. For us, this was an excellent incentive.

When We Returned From The 1951 Tour 60,000 People Welcomed Us In Marseilles

I have experienced many unforgettable moments during my long career. But I think the Third Test in Sydney. Which we won by 35 points to 14. Will always remain the most outstanding memory of all. We Frenchmen really flipped the ball around. Moving the ball from man to man as if on a string. We inspired each other that day. All of my life I will remember that parade after the game with the cup to the acclaim of the Sydney public. Which is surely the most sporting in the world.
Another imperishable memory was the return from Australia to Marseilles. Where we paraded, each in an open car. To the applause of some fifty to sixty thousand people, even more loudly cheered than the President of the Republic. Thanks to that victorious tour in Australia. I received the great honour of being named by the great Parisian sporting paper, L’Equipe (The Team). “Best Sportsman of the Year”.
It is for all these reasons that the French Rugby League team’s first Australian tour remains the greatest sporting memory of my career. But it would not have been had we Frenchmen been orthodox in thought and deed. Unorthodoxy always pays.

Retro France Rugby League Team Shirt

To celebrate the great France Rugby League team of 1951. Ellis Rugby created an outstanding range of garments. Such as Vintage France Rugby League World Cup Shirt. In addition, Retro France Rugby League Shirt Polo. Also, France Rugby League T-Shirt Vintage Style.