The former three-quarter center of Stade Montois and the XV of France, figure of “French flair”, André Boniface, died Monday April 8 at Bayonne hospital (Pyrénées-Atlantique), his family announced. He was 89 years old. He made 48 caps for the French team between 1954 and 1966, with which he won four Five Nations Tournaments (1954, 1955, 1959 and 1962).

At club level, André Boniface remained in the Landes throughout his career: after starting at US Dax, where he played for one season, he played for twenty years at Stade Montois, between 1952 and 1972. There are won the title of French champion in 1963 against US Dax, after failing twice in the final, in 1953 and 1959.

Whether at Stade Montois or with the French team, André Boniface played on several occasions with his brother Guy. Through their inventiveness and their thirst for movement, they were the embodiment of “French flair”, an expression from England to salute the creativity of “French play”.

But Guy Boniface died at the age of 30, on January 1, 1968, following a road accident that occurred the day before in Hagetmau, in the Landes. “The moment I let go of his hand [at the hospital] was and remains the most painful moment of my life,” André Boniface recounted in his memoir We Were So Happy, published in 2006.

The “Boni” divided French rugby

The eldest Boniface also described in this book the bond that united them, particularly during the meetings of the XV of France, where they officiated at the center. “During the anthems, followed by the haka, Guy and I stood side by side and shook hands very tightly. This moment, no one can know how strong it was, no one can know what it meant to us (…). We were so happy! », writes the man who was part of the first French team to win the All Blacks (3-0), in 1954.

Despite their aura, the pair of centers – André, number 12, and Guy, number 13 – will be rarely associated with the France team, only for 17 matches. The case of the “Boni”, little appreciated by rugby leaders, then divided the French oval.

Their stormy history with the XV of France reached its epilogue in 1966, after an 8-9 defeat against Wales, which deprived the Blues of a victory in the Tournament, the first that the two brothers could have shared. A bell pass from Jean Gachassin, intended for André, was intercepted by Welshman Stuart Watkins, who raced to the goal. Enough to knock out the French, who were leading 8-6 a few minutes from the end of the match – a try was then worth three points. The two brothers Boniface and Gachassin were then designated responsible for this defeat by the Federation.

“To sack three players after an intercepted pass is unique. In fact, it had nothing to do with the pass,” André Boniface lamented bitterly in L’Equipe in 2016. “It was fed up with the selectors towards us. They couldn’t stand us anymore. My appearance, my personality bothered them a lot. My outspokenness too,” he assured.