The greatest centres of all time: Yannick Jauzion
Power, athleticism and elegant skill, made French centre Yannick Jauzion, one of the greats
Major teams: Colomiers, Toulouse
Test span: 2003-11
France caps: 73 (65 starts)
Test points: 103 (20T, 1DG)
The professional era has seen midfields crowded with mighty collisions between hulking figures on a quest to cross the all-important gain-line. Standing just shy of 6ft 4in and weighing around 17st, Yannick Jauzion didn’t want for size.
He traded Colomiers for neighbours Toulouse in 2002, a year after making his debut for France in a wonderful 32-23 win over South Africa at Ellis Park.
He would become a totem wearing black and red under Guy Noves, inspiring three Top 14 titles in 2008, 2011 and 2012 as well as a trio of Heineken Cup crowns in 2003, 2005 and 2010. A master of the offload who also hit incisive running lines, Jauzion was the unfussy facilitator around which a team could mould their attacking approach.
Indeed, though a 73-Test France career yielded 20 tries, his smooth distribution and ability to free his arms in the contact area to find onrushing team-mates were more significant attributes. Grand Slams in 2002, 2004 and 2010 came either side of another Six Nations triumph in 2007, the same year Jauzion scored to oust the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-final and earned a World Player of the Year nomination.
Pioneering English backs coach Brian Ashton labelled Toulouse’s fluent best as “absolutely phenomenal” and “on a totally different level to what anyone else plays, even the All Blacks”.
Whether at 12 or 13, Jauzion was the lynchpin to this irresistible style. Teams needed to develop innovative plans – as Wasps did by positioning back-rower Joe Worsley in the back-line from lineouts – to quell his influence.
In 2006, the then France coach Bernard Laporte likened Jauzion’s importance to France to Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll and England’s Jonny Wilkinson, while Sky analyst Stuart Barnes is another who didn’t need any convincing of the centre’s supreme talents. “The Jauzion offload looks easy,” he said, “but only those verging on greatness make sport seem so simple.”