The action starts for Sébastien Chabal on the 50-metre line against Namibia in Toulouse on 16 September 2007. He receives, launched, a good pass from Frédéric Michalak and begins to accelerate ball under the arm. Five Namibians will try, in vain, to slow down his powerful charge and Chabal will score the ninth of thirteen tries scored that day by the Blues, largely winners of a weak Namibian team (87-10).
The Blue 🇫🇷Power The France and Namibia meet this Thursday in Marseille for the 3rd day of the World Cup @France2023
🙌The last confrontation between the 2 teams dates back to the 2007 World Cup and the match in Toulouse
🏟️Le #XVdeFrance had...
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) September 20, 2023
This spectacular test strongly marked the minds of the spectators gathered in large world in front of their television screen. The France, who had lost nine days before their opening match against Argentina, needed to redeem themselves in the eyes of their home crowd. And regardless of the opponent, the Blues wanted to prove that they had the fangs, like Sébastien Chabal, substitute in the opening match, who was this time a starter and who scored two tries in this match against Namibia.
The Chabal style had become trendy in the previous months. The Blues had played on August 11 a preparation match at Twickenham against England and Chabal, who had just come into play, had made a similar action by scoring the winning try (in the 70th). After a 30-meter run and a feint pass, Chabal had flattened the ball to the cheers of the entire public.
The English fans wanted to congratulate the one who then wore the colors of the club of Sale where he had earned the nickname of Caveman (caveman) because of his hardness but also his long hair, his full beard and his huge arms. Across the Channel, songs to the glory of Chabal rose in the stands and each of his charges aroused a lot of enthusiasm.
A knockout and a broken jaw
Since the beginning of his professional career, the third line Chabal has distinguished himself by his devastating tackles, earning the nickname "Cartridge". He was selected for the first time with Les Bleus in 2000 by Bernard Laporte who often used him as an impact player at the end of the match.
And his personal prowess sometimes exceeds that of the national team. During a tour of New Zealand in June 2007, he knocked out opponent Chris Masoe on an impressive tackle in the first Test and broke the jaw of another on contact in the second. The tour is a butchery for the Blues who lose their games (11-42 and 61-10) but the Chabal phenomenon, aka "Sea bass" or "Hannibal Lecter", continues to grow.
His performances have always been debated among observers of French rugby, some criticizing him for a register of play based solely on the physical challenge. Sébastien Chabal stands out of this debate and watches his popularity skyrocket. Brands are snatching up this unique-looking personality for advertisements. Long hair becomes his mark of recognition.
The rugby player plays it and even has fun to panic the media during the World Cup-2007 by letting go: "I go to the hairdresser (...) I'll bring you a tuft of hair" to some journalists present at the Marcoussis National Rugby Centre. The next day, Chabal still has the same tignasse... and a big smile on his face.
A successful conversion
Chabal won 62 caps for Les Bleus during his career, which ended in 2014. He played in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, with a fourth-place finish for Les Bleus each time. The second remains the most striking because of his try against Namibia and the quarter-final against the All Blacks before which Chabal used all his capacity of intimidation to challenge the New Zealanders, great favorites of this meeting finally won by the France.
Describe this moment with a GIF pic.twitter.com/uZ0mjM8s6T
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) April 9, 2021
After retiring as a player, he quickly became a sought-after consultant for various television channels. While advertising solicitations continue to pour in, he creates his own clothing brand, Ruckfield, and embarks on various entrepreneurial projects.
Chabal remains very popular, especially thanks to his commitment to the Enfoirés. He is the only rugby player to have settled permanently in the list of the 50 favorite personalities of the French established by the Journal du Dimanche. And he has logically become an ambassador for the 2023 World Cup.
This function allowed him to acquire a hundred tickets for this competition organized in France, a high figure that triggered a lively controversy. Chabal denied wanting to sell them to make a profit, arguing that he had many friends and relatives to whom he wanted to please. An argument as effective as his charges on the ground that quickly put an end to the criticism.
Chabal fans should not fail to show up in the stands of the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, Thursday, September 21, during the France-Namibia match. They like to dress up with long hair and beards to pay tribute to this former player of 45 years whose tignasse now tends to whiten.
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