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It took France until 1959 to win the Five Nations Championship outright, a 33-year desperate journey. For most of those years, France finished on the bottom of the group, the doormat of the four other rugby-playing nations (Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and England). France joined the Home Nations in 1910 to form the annual Five Nations Rugby Championship, which continued until 1931, when the French were kicked out for alleged professionalism. France rejoined the Five Nations Cup in 1947.
French prospects started to turn in the 1950s, marked by its first victory at Twickenham in 1951. An initial away win at Murryfield, Scotland in 1952, and then, the ne plus ultra of test victories, a close win against the All Blacks 3-0 in the old Stade Colombes in 1954. But in 1958, France caused an earth shaking result defeating the Springboks in a test competition in South Africa.
The 1959 championship was followed by similar Five Nations wins in 1960 and 1961. It is during this span that the French exhibited a different, open style of play that captivated the fans. It established the reputations of the Boniface brothers, Guy and Andre who both played club rugby at Stade Montois. As centers, les frères Boni dazzled crowds with their handling and open-field dashes.
With the arrival of the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, when New Zealand beat France in the final, it signaled that French rugby had reached the highest pinnacle and could compete on the world stage with all other nations. France staged the 2007 RWC setting a record attendance of 2.3 million patrons.
Since the start of the Six Nations Cup in 2000 with the addition of Italy, France, England, and Ireland have almost identical won and loss records. "Les Bleus" have won five of these championships. Importantly, 17 French clubs teams have been finalists in the 19 Heineken European club championships (38 teams), the greatest total among countries. Most of the clubs have been in the southwest, the traditional heart of French rugby.
The XV de France train at the modern rugby complex - the Centre National de Rugby (CNR) at Marcoussis, 20-miles south of Paris, and host to this August's 2014 IRB Women's RWC. The team plays currently at the Stade de France (81,338), which is the home of the French national soccer football club. In 2017, "Les Bleus" will move to their own rugby stadium at Évry in the southern suburbs of Paris, which will also hold 82,000 fans.