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 Monday, 2 December, 2002, 10:07 GMT
Taking the bull by the horns

Philippe Sella, the most capped player in the history of the game, looks back at his 111-match career in the latest of BBC Sport Online's Legends Series.


Philippe Sella in international colours
Sella is the most capped international of all time
Former French coach Jacques Fouroux precisely summed up the two sides to Philippe Sella when he said he had the "strength of a bull but the touch of a piano player".

That skilful twinkling of the ivories was never better typified than at Twickenham in 1987 when the then 25 year old scored what will always be his favourite try.

Sella recalled: "We were under big pressure from the English at the time and the game was still not won.

"And I can't explain why exactly - maybe it's the French flair - but I intercepted the ball and 70 metres later had scored a try. It was great."

Sella profile
Name: Philippe Sella
Position: Centre
Test caps: 111
Test tries: 30
Born: 14 February 1962
Place of birth: Tonneins, France
International debut: 31.10.82 v Romania
Last test: 22.06.95 v England
Typical of the modest Frenchman, his description failed to illuminate the jinking, running style which outfoxed a bemused English defence and has been copied but never bettered by his extrovert countrymen.

His bull-like qualities, on the other hand, occasionally flared up in ugly fashion, none more so than three years later in a Test against Australia.

Again showing sublime running style, he charged from midfield.

But rather than rack up the points for his team, he floored Australian lock Peter Fitzsimons, making most people's top 10 of rugby hits in the process.

But from Agen, where he started his career, to Twickenham, where he played his final game for club side Saracens, he will be remembered more for the Gallic flair both on and off the field than anything else.

His international trophy winning was limited to the Five Nations, while at club level the Tetley's Bitter Cup was the last silverware he lifted as a player.

But for the 40 year old, defeats as well as victories bring smiles of recollection.

France's route to the World Cup final in 1987, third place in the same tournament in 1995 as well as a series win over New Zealand the previous year are all still highlights.

"Spending time with my team-mates, spending a month away for a tournament and sitting in the dressing room are just as special as any of those," he revealed.

"Another time I remember fondly was a match of ours that was delayed by bad weather against South Africa, which we eventually lost. When we went out it was like playing water polo."

While his career highlight is not clear cut, he is even more uncertain about the best players he has ever faced in an international career which started against Romania in 1982 and ended against the English 13 years later.

Welsh stars John Devereux and Scott Gibbs, Australians Danny Herbert, Tim Horan and Jason Little, and the English duo of Jeremy Guscott and Will Carling all make the grade.

All "great players" according to Sella, he remains unsure how he and his peers would cope with the rigours of modern rugby now.

"Well I'm 40 now, so I might be a bit old," he joked.

"But if I were 20 or 25, maybe."


PART TWO: Sella on getting naked in a north London gym and a night spent in hospital with countryman Serge Blanco.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 France legend Philippe Sella
"I have good memories"

Rugby heroes
See also:

02 Dec 02 | International
Links to more International stories are at the foot of the page.


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