One of the major criticisms of Rugby Union since the advent of professionalism in 1995 is a loss of attacking flair. There exists a school of thought that blames this on the plethora of ex-rugby League defence coaches and the subsequent rush-defence adopted by most teams. Whether this is true or not is not clear. Admittedly, there are some boring games in which the kick, smash and shove method of gaining territory dominates. But then, there are also the games that feature PUMA star Wesley Fofana.
Fofana jinks, he wriggles, he goes low; side stepping at will and only going to deck on his own terms. Unique and highly effective, he is a powerful and creative centre. In short, Fofana is what the late great Bill McLaren would have described as being “like a baggy up a Border burn”. In addition to his wily attacking skills he is also lightning quick when on the hoof. So much so, that the French refer to him merely as 'Le Guépard' (The Cheetah). This uncanny ability to generate space and go-forward has seen Fofana constantly break the gain line and excite fans across the world during this year’s Six Nations Tournament.
He has also scored a try in each of France’s four tournament games to date against Italy, Scotland, Ireland and England. A feat which has grabbed the attention of not only rugby fans and journalists but also the statisticians. In fact, should Wesley Fofana score against Wales this weekend he will equal a record held by G C Robinson of England since 1898. A remarkable statistic in itself, it will be a massive achievement for a player who is still only 24.
As a youngster Fofana cut his teeth at the famous Paris Universite Club before moving on to Clermont Auvergne in 2008. Since then he has formed an integral part of ’Les Jaunards’ (The Vulcans) squad which finished the TOP 14 twice as runners up in 2008 and 2009 before famously winning it in 2010. International recognition quickly followed for Fofana as new French coach, Phillipe Saint-Andre, named the exciting centre in his 2012 Six Nations squad. Fofana has so far re-paid his coaches faith and continues to offer much promise for the future.
Quick feet, good hands and the ability to break through defenses in an exciting and innovative way conjure memories of past French greats such as Castaignede and Blanco. In Wesley Fofana France and Clermont have a genuinely creative attacking force and in a sport supposedly dominated by defensive play Fofana is carrying a beacon for fans of artistic attacking rugby. Vive Le Guépard.