Rugby Union

Chabal is one of the most popular and recognisable rugby players in the World (©GettyImages)
Chabal is one of the most popular and recognisable rugby players in the World (©GettyImages).

Sebastien Chabal to retire from professional rugby

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They call him the ‘Caveman’ because his long hair and beard, but if you are running and look up to see Sebastien Chabal, a 6ft 3in man-mountain, you would be better off just handing him the ball, rather than trying to get past.

Chabal, who can play at flanker, lock or number eight, is one of France’s greatest ever forwards, having picked up two Six Nations titles.

Yet, the days of wingers feeling the full force of Chabal, seeing the light and his facial hair flash before your eyes, are soon to be over.

The former French international will play his last professional rugby match this weekend, when he steps out for Lyon against La Rochelle on Sunday, after 16 years of playing the sport.

“I will end my career with pleasure having helped Lyon gain promotion to the top flight,” Chabal told BBC Sport.

His current club, where he has been since 2012, will be playing in the Top 14, France’s highest rugby league, next season, after winning the Rugby Pro D2 division.

Chabal started his career at Bougoin-Jallieu, just over 20 miles from Lyon, before joining English side Sale Sharks in 2004.

Whilst at the Manchester club, he made over 100 appearances, where he guided them to their second European Challenge Cup victory in 2005, just a year before helping Sale to their first English Premiership title.

Chabal returned to his home country in 2009, joining newly-promoted Racing Metro in the Top 14 league.

The Caveman helped them to Heineken Cup rugby at the first attempt, being rewarded with a €1m-per-year contract, to make him the highest-paid rugby player in the world.

He left the French capital for Lyon two years later, and has been desperate to see them return to playing against the big boys, after getting relegated just before joining in 2012.

Whilst he was a major influence for all the clubs he played for, it was the international stage where he made his mark and left people flattened on the floor.

Chabal made his debut for France in 2000 against Scotland, and has since gone on to play another 61 times for Les Bleus.

In that time, he has won two Six Nations crowns for France, winning his first in 2007.
That same year, he played in the World Cup, helping the hosts to reach the semi-finals, only to be defeated by their old enemy, England, 14-9 in Paris.

Chabal claimed his second Six Nations medal in 2010, as France claimed their ninth Grand Slam title, but could not force his way into the World Cup squad a year later.

So as the Caveman will step out for his last professional rugby match on Sunday, every Frenchman and neutral of the game, who has been seeing Chabal’s glorious hair for the last decade and a half, they will be hoping he can land a few heavy tackles and leave a few wingers on their backsides as a last hurrah.

Well, all will be wishing it, except for those La Rochelle players that must face him.

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