Christophe Dominici, ‘epitome of French flair’ in rugby who helped his country to great victories – obituary

Dominici of France skips through the New Zealand defence and heads to the try line in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham, 1999  - Alex Livesey/ALLSPORT
Dominici of France skips through the New Zealand defence and heads to the try line in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham, 1999 – Alex Livesey/ALLSPORT

Christophe Dominici, who has died aged 48, was one of the fastest and most prolific wing-threequarters in French rugby. He scored 25 tries in 67 internationals, helping his country to win four championships and two Grand Slams between 1998 and 2007. He scored eight tries in three Rugby World Cups.

A short man, around 5ft 6ins, he was described by the great All Black, Dan Carter, as “a man of small stature but a titan on the field, the epitome of French flair”. He was notable for a pained, even mournful facial expression, on and off the field, which disappeared only when he scored a try or his team celebrated a victory.

In addition to his pace, which he could adjust to confuse his opponents, he also had a shimmy and a sidestep off both feet that often took him through or round an apparently unbreachable wall of defenders. He was a great opportunist, ready to pounce on a loose ball or a loose pass and show the defence a clean pair of heels.

He did this to most dramatic effect in France’s epic semi-final victory over the All Blacks at Twickenham in the 1999 World Cup. The French were given no chance after the ruthless way the New Zealanders had despatched all opposition in the earlier rounds.

Dramatic pace: Dominici breaks away to score a try during the Rugby World Cup quarter-final between France and Ireland, 2003 - DAMIEN MEYER/AFP PHOTO Dramatic pace: Dominici breaks away to score a try during the Rugby World Cup quarter-final between France and Ireland, 2003 - DAMIEN MEYER/AFP PHOTO 
Dramatic pace: Dominici breaks away to score a try during the Rugby World Cup quarter-final between France and Ireland, 2003 – DAMIEN MEYER/AFP PHOTO

Soon after the kick-off Dominici made a slanting run at high pace through the All Blacks defence, covering about 50 yards. When he was hauled down just before the line, his fly-half followed up to score.

Even when the All Blacks were 14 points ahead at the interval after Jonah Lomu had crashed over for two tries, Dominici roused his team-mates by scoring a brilliant solo try, scooping up a bouncing ball with one hand and outrunning the New Zealand defenders within inches of the touchline.

Thanks largely to him, France went on to win 43-31 in what has been described as the greatest match in the history of the Rugby World Cup.

Dominici had burst onto the international scene a year before with a stunning try against England at the Stade Francais that brought France a 24-17 victory and completed a Grand Slam.

Christophe Dominici (2003)  - DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty ImagesChristophe Dominici (2003)  - DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images
Christophe Dominici (2003) – DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

Christophe Dominici was born in Toulon on May 20 1972 into a family who had emigrated from Santa-Reparata-di-Balagnia in Corsica.

In his autobiography, Bleu a L’Ame, published in 2007, he described a difficult and sometimes turbulent childhood which left him with depressions throughout his life. He attributed this condition to the early death of his elder sister and to the fact that he had been abused as a child.

He was outstanding at football, and while training with AC Monaco developed a close friendship with Lilian Thuram, who became the longest-serving player in the French national team. But Dominici chose rugby union, at which he had also shown exceptional talent, playing for La Valette from 1991 until he joined Toulon for four seasons from 1993.

It was at Stade Francais, however, where he played from 1997 until his retirement in 2008, that he became a giant of French club rugby, helping them in a golden era to become five times national champions.

Dominici of France celebrates after the quarter-final Rugby World Cup match against New Zealand in Cardiff, 2007 - Charles Platiau/REUTERSDominici of France celebrates after the quarter-final Rugby World Cup match against New Zealand in Cardiff, 2007 - Charles Platiau/REUTERS
Dominici of France celebrates after the quarter-final Rugby World Cup match against New Zealand in Cardiff, 2007 – Charles Platiau/REUTERS

He stayed on a for a season as assistant coach at Stade Francais before becoming an expert commentator on television and radio. He also launched his own wine and took part in the French version of Dancing with the Stars.

Recently he had been involved in a consortium with the United Arab Emirates to buy the Beziers rugby club in southern France, which had fallen on hard times. He was said to have been deeply upset when the proposal was rejected by French rugby’s financial regulator.

He was found fatally injured at the foot of a disused building in a park in the Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud after apparently jumping from the roof.

Divorced from his wife Ingrid in 2000, he leaves his partner, Loretta, and their two daughters.

Christophe Dominici, born May 20 1972, died November 24 2020

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