FLASHBACK: January 1954

France defeated the ‘American All Stars’ 31-0 on a freezing cold Paris day, in the process putting the final nail in the coffin of attempts to have the United States become an official member of the international rugby league community.
France was to host the inaugural World Cup in October, 1954, and the Americans held out hope of being invited, alongside Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.
But the emphatic nature of France’s win, coming on the top of the Americans’ unsuccessful tour of Australia and New Zealand the previous year, put paid to those hopes.
The Parc des Prince playing surface was turned into a skating rink after snow fell, and the rain of the previous few days turned to ice.
The Americans wore their grid iron pants and skipper, Mike Dimitro wore gloves.
Legendary French fullback, Puig Aubert converted five of the seven tries.
Aubert said it gave him a special thrill to beat the Americans, given they were so good at so many sports. He said they were talented athletes, but, because of their up-bringing in American football, ran out of steam towards the end of games.
“That’s why they look relieved when the final whistle blows,” Aubert said. “Their inexperience showed, and they bought the simplest dummies, like kids.”
French team manager, Antoine Blaine tipped second rowers, Armand Save and Jean Pambrun to be as good as Elie Brousse and Edouard Ponsinet, the two forwards who wreaked such havoc on the Australians during France’s successful, inaugural tour ‘down under’, in 1951.
A number of French players had just completed their national service, and were striving to impress ahead of the World Cup, and the 1955 tour of Australia and New Zealand.
American, Don Lent summed up the Paris contest.
“Those guys were out of our league. They were real pros and very tough. That’s why we didn’t score any points.”
The Americans were young, ‘grid iron’ players, mainly from California.
Footnote: In 1954 there were rugby league competitions in Italy, Canada and Yugoslavia, but none of those countries were invited to the World Cup either.
The United States was to host the 2025 World Cup, but recent reports indicate the event has been put out to tender, because of the would-be promotor’s alleged financial woes. Just another black eye for international rugby league.
Photo: Vincent Cantoni goes low and Jean Audoubert high on American, Bob Ferguson in Paris.

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