French rugby great Mias dies aged 93

golf13 May 2024 14:25| © AFP
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Lucien Mias © Getty Images

Lucien Mias, who captained France to their first ever Five Nations championship title in 1959, died on Sunday night at the age of 93, according to the mayor of Mazamet, the town where he played for many years.

Selected 29 times for the French national team, six as captain, 'Doctor Pack' as Mias was known because of his other role as a general practitioner, began his international career in 1951.

A 1.89 metre lock forward, Mias captained Les Bleus on their historic winning tour of South Africa in 1958 and closed his international career after leading them to their Five Nations triumph the following year, retiring at the age of just 29.

He also helped France to their first wins at Twickenham in 1951 and Cardiff seven years later, as well as a monumental first-ever victory over the All Blacks in 1954, a hard-fought 3-0 win at the Stade Colombes in Paris.

"Rugby mourns a great man who left his mark on our history," wrote French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Florian Grill on X.

"Beyond his exploits on the field, Lucien Mias will be remembered as a generous, humble man respected by all," added the FFR in a statement.

Born on September 28, 1930 in the small village of Saint-Germain-de-Calberte, about 80 kilometres north-west of Nimes, Mias began his rugby career with Narbonne before moving to Mazamet.

He never won the Brennus Shield although Mazamet did make it to the final of the French championship in 1958, losing 25-8 to Lourdes.

Mias made his international debut against Scotland in the 1951 Five Nations and he played another 16 times to 1954, when France shared the title with England and Wales.

With 17 caps under his belt, Mias's career was then put on hold but he returned in 1957, 20 kilos lighter and with a wiser head, winning another 12 caps in the next two years.

These were among the most memorable in the history of French rugby.

"On the pitch, nothing could happen to us because we were convinced we were the best,” he told La Depeche du Midi in 1999.

In 1958, he lead the team to South Africa where no touring side had won a series since 1896.

After drawing the first test 3-3 in Cape Town, France won the second test 9-5 in Johannesburg to claim the two-match series.

In the Five Nations that followed at the start of 1959, the French recorded wins over Scotland and Wales, and drew with England, a game which he missed because of a knee injury.

They lost their final match to Ireland in Dublin but still ended top of the table.

After his rugby career, Mias became a trailblazer in the medical field, adopting and defending a "humanist" approach in his speciality, geriatrics.

He later found a website dedicated to the elderly which, in a tip of the hat to his former nickname on the rugby field, was called 'Papidoc'.