Coupe du monde de rugby 2023 : le jour où Didier Cambérabero a joué ailier en finale avec la France

Débarqué in extremis dans le groupe France pour la première Coupe du monde de l’histoire en 1987, l’ouvreur de Béziers Didier Camberabero a dû s’improviser… ailier pour jouer.

Didier Camberabero did not expect to have such an intense month of June 1987. The AS Béziers fly-half was calmly waiting at home to leave for a tour in New Zealand with the Languedoc selection when the phone rings. « I had stopped thinking about it, for me, the World Cup was over, » explains the now technical advisor for the Occitanie League. « At noon, I receive a phone call: Jean-Baptiste Laffont got injured in the morning, so I’m the one who’s going… It’s all hands on deck, we have to leave the same evening. »

No problem, the Biterrois jumps on a plane and catches up, just in time, with the group of 26 leaving for the other side of the world. A group that will gradually decrease as injuries occur. « Cambé » earns his place in the team and plays a few bits of matches. At the same time, the success of the kickers does not satisfy Jacques Fouroux, the coach of the French team. He therefore asks Didier Camberabero to take on the role… « After the quarter-final against Fiji, on Monday during training, Fouroux calls me and says: I need a kicker but I don’t have a spot, except for winger, » he recalls. I told him: It’s not a problem, besides up front, there are no issues. »

« I had never played as a winger… »

« Il n’avait jamais joué en tant qu’ailier, que ce soit en équipe nationale ou en club », dit-il en souriant. Les Bleus se qualifient en remportant une demi-finale épique contre l’Australie (30-24), où il marque 14 des 30 points de l’équipe de France (4 transformations et deux pénalités).

Heading to Eden Park for the first final against the All Blacks. However, the French team is not really there. « Cambé » returns to his position as a winger while also remaining the kicker. « I have a goal to score throughout the match. A penalty and Berbizier’s try conversion, » he summarizes. « I have a chance to score, I manage to kick ahead and beat Greene, the winger, but the fullback touches down before me. I mainly remember the two tries we conceded. On a closed side departure, the winger escapes and scores, and the same thing happens on the kickoff. We concede these 10 points right from the start, it drained us. »

A unique adventure at the end of the world that will remain in the great history of world rugby. The first of three finals for the French team. And one of the greatest memories for Didier Camberabero, who will retire at the end of the month.