France registered a shock 8-5 win over Australia in the First Test in Bordeaux, scoring two tries to one and overcoming the dismissal of halfback and skipper, Georges Fages late in the match.
The Kangaroos were hot favorites, after claiming the Ashes with a 2-1 series win over Great Britain.
Australian centre, Graeme Langlands scored his side’s only try and also kicked a penalty goal.
Antoine Blain, the secretary-general of the French League, was immensely proud of the national team, with centre, Bernard Fabre and second rower, Georges Ailleres the try scorers, while five eighth, Jean Villeneuve kicked a goal.
Ailleres, who made his Test debut against the touring Kiwis in 1961, would go on to captain France in the 1968 World Cup in Australia, when the French beat Great Britain and New Zealand in reaching the final against Australia. They lost 20-2.
Blain had seen all three of the Kangaroos Tests against Britain in 1963, and rated the Australians one of the best teams he had seen. Irish rugby international, Mike Gibson was a spectator at the Kangaroos’ First Test, 28-2 win over Britain at Wembley, and rated the Kangaroos’ backline the finest in either rugby code.
“Most national teams have three or four exceptional players, backed by less gifted teammates,” Blain said. “Every 10 or 20 years a national team appears, composed of football’s elite. This is the case with these Kangaroos. Their collective speed is bewildering. This is a team without a single weakness. It is full of destructive power.”
The Bordeaux Test was the second match on the Kangaroo’s French section. In Game one, they had beaten Paris Celtic 30-2, after leading 19-0 at halftime. Teammates applauded when Darling Downs’ boy, Johnny Gleeson, scored his first try of the tour.
A bitterly cold wind made conditions difficult. Paris Celtic included two Americans – lock, Eddie West and centre, Walter Franklin – who had been introduced to rugby league while serving in France with the American Armed Forces.
Footnote: I was a spectator at the 1968 World Cup Final when Georges Ailleres captained France. In 1989 I covered the Aquitaine Province v Queensland Residents match at Villeneuve-sur-Lot with George’s son, Pierre in the front row for the local side. Pierre played 12 Tests for France between 1984 and 1991, 10 against Great Britain and two against Papua New Guinea. He toured Australia in 1991, but did not play a Test. His dad played 34 times for France, between 1961 and 1970 – against Britain, New Zealand and Australia. The last time I saw Pierre was 2007, at Villeneuve-sur-Lot, when he was coach of the St Gaudens colts side. I enjoyed a beer in the hospitality tent, and he spoke with pride about his dad.
Photo: Georges Ailleres in action for France against Great Britain.