BUCK’S BAD LUCK
The legend of the so-called Battle of Nantes has grown over the years. Unsurprisingly maybe because it was one of test rugby’s most brutal and violent encounters of the modern age.
France had been out in New Zealand earlier that year and had lost to the Baby Blacks in Christchurch, which didn’t overly please them. And when they couldn’t exact revenge on November 8 in Toulouse, they decided they had to go all out to win the final game. They wanted a victory against the All Blacks before the World Cup the following year and they decided the best way to get one, was to treat the contest in Nantes as a war.
The physicality – legal and illegal – went o the scale. The French were rampant, literally climbing into rucks, using their boots freely to shift All Blacks out the way and fists regularly flew around.
The bit everyone remembers of course is that All Blacks captain Buck Shelford ended up having his testicles rucked and split open. The wound required multiple stitches and yet he played on. It wasn’t until he was concussed and lost two teeth in the second half that he finally relented and came o – creating a story that went around the world and is readily recalled 20-plus years later.
The twist in the tale came a few years ago when a book was released in France suggesting that the French had taken amphetamines before that game. And it was an accusation that Shelford found easy to believe.
“When I came out of the tunnel and I saw them, I looked into the eyes of many of the players as I walked past them, and their eyes did not say that they were going into a game against the All Blacks,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“Their eyes just looked like they were on something, and I could not prove it.”
HIGH FLYING The All Blacks suspected France had taken something before kick o .