International Rugby

Six Nations 2014: 10 Greatest Tries in France vs England History

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2014

Six Nations 2014: 10 Greatest Tries in France vs England History

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    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

    France and England clash once again this weekend in a matchup that promises to separate two of this year's biggest contenders for the 2014 Six Nations title.

    It's a fixture that stretches back as far as 1906 when the two teams first met in Paris, both going on to establish themselves as two of the rugby universe's heaviest hitters.

    Though archives won't yield evidence of all tries scored, we've compiled a list of the 10 finest tries ever scored between these two titans of the sport, a majority of which unsurprisingly come from the Six Nations.

10. Soft Hands Set Up Ben Foden Gliding Finish

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    Simple rugby makes for big results and Martin Johnson couldn't have asked his backs to makes things any less complex than this 2010 Six Nations effort.

    Just when it seemed as though Toby Flood's ball out to Riki Flutey was too flat, the centre keeps the potato hot, shifting possession to an onrushing Chris Ashton, whose silky smooth handling puts the line in sight for Ben Foden.

    The supporting full-back didn't have the easiest of finishes ahead of him but nonetheless surges in to open this Stade de France encounter with a bang.

    In the end, England would go on to lose 12-10, but there's no denying the fluid motion of this attack, showing off a side of Ashton that the winger would assuredly like to recapture at present.

9. Jason Robinson's Short-Range Devastation in 2002

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    If there were no other weapon in his arsenal other than the ridiculous amount of pace he possessed, Jason Robinson still would have been one of the most dangerous players ever to grace an English wing.

    That ability to turn on the afterburners from close to static opened up gaps that weren't necessarily available to the average back, such as this gaping void that seemingly appeared from nowhere during the 2002 Six Nations.

    Gerald Merceron, Nicolas Brusque and Serge Betsen were left grasping at little more than vapour trails after Robinson had made his move, the try line searing down upon him with alarming speed.

    If the finish was perhaps a bit simple, the step that Robinson called upon his League roots to showcase is most certainly deserving of a place in these rankings.

8. Imanol Harinordoquy Collects Pinpoint Yachvili Kick

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    Using his towering frame in the way that he knows best, Imanol Harinordoquy won't have received too many easier try finishes than the one Dimitri Yachvili put him in for against England at the 2004 Six Nations.

    After some fine build-up play down the left flank, France's scrum-half supreme sends a pinpoint ball to the other wing, where none other than his soon-to-be Biarritz teammate is out wide, surging down upon the opportunity.

    If anything, Harinordoquy makes matters all the more difficult by opting to let the ball bounce, but his pouncing effort is somehow made to look all the more accomplished as a result of the No. 8's reaction time.

    Try occurs at the 31:35 mark in the video.

7. Austin Healey Overhead Kick Sets Up Mike Catt Touchdown

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    It's not something one sees every day in the world of rugby, but Austin Healey created the platform for a sumptuously finished overhead kick against France in 2001.

    We now know where Carlos Spencer got his moves from, Healey displaying his penchant for flair on this occasion, but the end product was the same.

    With the most subtle of glances toward Mike Catt, the pair know precisely what it is that's about to unfold, Catt blazing a trail between the French defenders, timed to absolute perfection.

6. Manu Tuilagi Storms Home from Halfway

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    The daunting prospect of facing France this weekend would be made far less so were Manu Tuilagi fit and ready to feature in Paris, having already dished some serious damage to Les Bleus in 2012.

    As Eddie Butler and Brian Moore note in their commentary, the young centre by no means had an easy job ahead of him after Owen Farrell's picked ball finally finds its way out to the wing.

    Any player of less confidence may not have backed themselves to shoot down such a narrow channel with such success, but this is fortunately Tuilagi that we're talking about.

    Legs pumping and head to the floor, the French defence was almost helpless to watch as the Leicester Tigers star throttled down the flank with a pace that it's not always obvious is in his locker.

5. Josh Lewsey Barrels Through Bodies to Bag Vital Score

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    Thanks to a no-nonsense challenge from Ben Kay in the middle of the park, Josh Lewsey was able to score one of the most memorable tries of his international career in 2004, the second score from this Six Nations' meeting to make the list.

    Following that hit, Michael Dawson sets up a sweet passing phase, with Mike Catt, Mike Tindall and Olly Barkley each helping the ball find its way to Lewsey out on the right wing.

    From there, it's all a one-man performance.

    Stepping in off the line, the London Wasps stalwart shows quick feet, slicing between the figures of two defenders before getting himself out of some potential bother with a well-timed hand-off to the chest of Christophe Dominici.

    The score put England back in the frame with just minutes to go at the time, but Lewsey's try would prove in vain, his side losing 24-21 in the end.

    Try occurs at the 1:34:00 mark of the video.

4. Training Manoeuvre Leads to Eric Bonneval's Rampant Finish

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    Back in a day where 18-stone players were strictly designated for the front row and training moves held that much more intellectual esteem, tries such as this were a thing of beauty to watch.

    Eric Bonneval is the man who finally gets on the end of a finely executed move from the back of a French scrum, barrelling through a couple of players with white-line fever the main contributor of his desire.

    However, it's all about the pick-and-switch ball that Philippe Sella and Eric Champ exchange closer to midfield, the latter being set loose through the very core of the pitch as a result of some fine ingenuity from the French.

    This 1987 Five Nations score from Bonneval didn't finish as the most beautiful try ever but contained a magnificent blend of both the beautiful and the boisterous.

3. Josh Lewsey Caps off Superbly Swift England Counter

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    Having managed to nick away a French line-out in their own territory, England showed in a 2003 Test meeting with their European counterparts just why they were such a dominant force of the sport in that period.

    Although it's Josh Lewsey whose name ultimately goes down on the score sheet, this end-to-end contribution picks up some influence from just about every player on the English team.

    After Lewsey makes the initial break in midfield, collecting a crash ball from Will Greenwood at pace, everybody gets in on the act, with Ben Kay, Richard Hill, Simon Shaw, Lewis Moody, Ben Cohen and more all getting in on the action.

    The French defence does its very best to stand firm against the tide, but rabid wave after rabid wave of of relentless English pressure ultimately wears down the resistance.

2. Wesley Fofana Rampages as a One-Man Army

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    He's still fairly new to the international game, having made his French debut only two years ago, but Wesley Fofana is already developing a thrilling highlight reel.

    Not least of which is this solo effort recorded just last year, the centre deciding to take matters into his own hands rather than bother with any of the niceties.

    Granted, it's some poor defending from the likes of Ashton and Ben Youngs, but there's simply no arguing with the Clermont Auvergne devastator who pinpoints England in his sights on this occasion.

    Showcasing speed, strength and a terrific step to go along with it, there's no wonder this player is revered as one of the finest centres in the Northern Hemisphere.

1. Philippe Saint-Andre's Try of the Centenary

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    In 1991, Philippe Saint-Andre was responsible for scoring what would go on to become known widely as one of, if not the best try in Twickenham history.

    It was bitter sweet that the now French coach's score wasn't enough to see his team win and bring home the elusive Grand Slam, the try going down as being of the highest quality around.

    Things would start with Les Bleus legend Serge Blanco at the back, but what followed was a chain of supply that found its way throughout the French line-up, with Jean Baptiste Lafond, Philippe Sella and Didier Camberabero all contributing to the magic.

    Camberabero deserves special mention for his chip over the head of an onrushing Jeremy Guscott, the ability to do so at full pelt being one of the tricks that most backs can only wish of mastering. 

    The chasing English defence was all too concerned with where the ball was and not where it was going, a chipped ball through to Saint-Andre in midfield capping off the sensational counter.

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