All Blacks v Sebastien Chabal [France]

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Curse of the Caveman

French hard man Sebastien Chabal made two huge tackles in June 2007 that earned him global fame and the ire of the All Blacks.

France's Sebastien Chabal.Credit: Getty Images

In June 2007 the French took a rag tag group to New Zealand a for a two-test series against the All Blacks. France coach Bernard Laporte had already, virtually, settled on the 30 players he was going to pick for the World Cup in September and didn't take any of them.

They were at home resting and the squad in New Zealand was told to try to force Laporte to reconsider his World Cup plans. The message didn't get through as France were crushed in Wellington and then fell to a record 61-10 defeat in Auckland.

But there was one exception – and that was Sebastien Chabal. The bruising Frenchman was happiest at No 8 but could play at lock, too. He had long, dark, lank hair and piercing eyes - which earned him the nickname, Caveman. He was aggressive and intimidating and he put himself on the world map with two specific acts in that series.

The first was when he clobbered Ali Williams so hard in a legitimate tackle, that he broke the big lock's jaw. It was a stunning collision and Williams was shaken by it – trudging off with blood dripping from his mouth and in obvious pain.

Next it was Chris Masoe who felt the power of Chabal. The All Blacks loose forward took a pass in midfield and was wondering what to do with it when Chabal hit him like a torpedo. Masoe was smashed backwards and hit his head so hard on the turf that he was knocked out. It was another dynamic and supremely good tackle by Chabal.

New Zealand fly half Nick Evans (L) tries to avoid the tackle from France's Sebastien Chabal (R) Credit: Getty Images

He forced his way into the World Cup squad on the back of those two tackles and his name was known around the world when video footage went viral. The All Blacks didn't like it.

They didn't like seeing someone gain leverage at their expense and images of black jerseys being tumbled like skittles...not good.

So when the All Blacks met France a few months later in the quarterfinal of the World Cup, New Zealand's players wanted to make it clear that they didn't have a great deal of fondness for Chabal.

“He's different for different people,” said All Blacks lock Chris Jack. “The French see him as a bit of a hero and someone who stands out. For us, he's just another player on the field. Maybe he has a tag that's probably higher than his ability. He's tough, he's hard and he plays hard, [but] I am a little surprised to see him playing as a lock.”

When Williams was asked if he had a score to settle with Chabal, he fired up. “It's not an individual battle between me and him. Why would there [be]? That's the past. It's a game of rugby. It's like anyone else who got injured in a tackle - do they go and seek him for revenge? You wouldn't play the game if you were like that. I've got no anger towards him.”

After France won, Chabal's legend grew again and he became the highest paid player in world rugby. The All Blacks were further bemused by things when Chabal was part of a French team that beat them in Dunedin 2009.

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