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REMEMBERING CHRISTOPHE DOMINICI

A great talent who graced the rugby stage with Toulon, Stade Français, and of course, France 

Merci Domi.

France were in deep trouble. They trailed the mighty All Blacks 24-10 in the second half of the 1999 Rugby World Cup semi-final. The hunched shoulders of blue- jersey wearing spectators at Twickenham foretold the inevitable.

But some sharp penalty kicking got them back into the game and then it happened.

Winger Christophe Dominici crossed the gain line at high speed, collecting a kick over the defence - with one hand - and raced home to score. The amazing skill and fleet of foot that went into this try are a wonderful demonstration of Dominici’s wizardry – galvanising France to pull off the greatest comeback in Rugby World Cup history.

That was ‘Domi’ in full cry, a moment savoured over and over this week as the rugby world mourns the man who has died at 48.

A wonderfully talented sportsman in his youth, Dominici played rugby for Solliès-Point AND  football at AS Monaco. It was at AS Monaco where he forged a lifelong friendship with  France footballer, Lilian Thuram.

At 16 Dominici started to focus on the sport he was born to play and joined his hometown club, Toulon, in 1993. After four impressive seasons, the winger earned his move to Stade Français, where he was key to a golden era of success for the Paris club.

A try for Dominici in Stade Français’ win over Perpignan, in 1998, secured the French domestic title and kickstarted a period of glory for the club. Stade Français would go on to win five domestic titles in the next nine seasons with Dominici at the heart of this success.

The diminutive Dominici’s fearless nature, wicked change of pace and a step to make any defender look silly, soon caught the eye of the French national side. He made his international debut against England in 1998 and capped this occasion with a try.

Dominici made 67 international appearances, winning four Six Nations titles, including two Grand Slams. He also scored 25 tries for his country, including most famously, that try against the ABs. To put it in perspective, New Zealand boasted the likes of Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen and were pre-tournament favourites.

Dominici retired from rugby in 2008. In a 2009 interview with Le Monde he shared what he had learned.

“(Rugby) let me understand many things – respect for life, people and oneself, along with the values of humility and combat. I was aggressive and put that to collective use. Now I have far more wisdom and maturity.”

C. Dominici

There have been tributes from all corners of the sport this week, remembering and celebrating the life of one of rugby’s most dynamic and entertaining players. The French Rugby Federation and Stade Français led these tributes, describing Christophe Dominici as a “rugby genius and peerless companion” who “left his imprint on an entire generation of rugby”.

Merci Domi.

 

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