Paris - Thierry Dusautoir made his name as a fearless
tackler and went on to become the most capped captain of France, but he has
quit on his own terms, ironically as his long-term club coach Guy Noves takes
over Les Bleus.
The 34-year-old Ivory Coast-born flank won 80 caps for
France, skippering the side on a record 56 occasions.
Always understated and discreet, Dusautoir was someone who
did his talking on the pitch. After meeting with Noves, the player said the duo
had come "to the same conclusions".
"That is why I am convinced that my decision is
dictated by reason. If I had tried to continue, by forcing it, I would have
looked very vain. This is the wisest decision," Dusautoir said in an
interview with L'Equipe newspaper published on Saturday.
The 2011 World Player of the Year, who will continue to play
for Toulouse, had been reluctant to call time on his international career
immediately after the 62-13 World Cup quarter-final defeat by New Zealand.
Perhaps tempted by extending his tenure with Noves,
alongside whom he won three French championship titles (2008, 2011, 2012) and
the 2010 European Cup, Dusautoir delayed his announcement.
But he soon realised that a more glorious exit was past him.
"Very few sportspeople get to choose their exit,"
"If I'd played the next Six Nations... nothing says
that I would have finished on a more positive note.
"My regret is the World Cup in general, the way in
which we couldn't enjoy the moments we went through together."
Dusautoir made his debut for France against Romania in 2006,
but made his name with a breath-taking display in France's 20-18 victory over
New Zealand in the 2007 World Cup.
Scoring a try in the infamous win, Dusautoir went on to make
a record 38 tackles, earning himself the "Dark Destroyer" nickname
and cementing his place at the heart of the team.
Vice-captain to Lionel Nallet in 2008, Dusautoir was named
captain for the first time for a tour to New Zealand a year later, a first
victory coming in the 29-22 triumph over the All Blacks in Dunedin, the last
time France beat the two-time world champions.
Dusautoir was also part of the France team that won the 2010
Six Nations Grand Slam.
Heading into the 2011 World Cup, Dusautoir was skipper of a
team that revolted against then-coach Marc Lievremont after a shock 19-14 pool
defeat by Tonga.
But the French came back and made the final, losing 8-7 to
New Zealand in a nail-biting match in which Dusautoir scored a try and was
"He was a very, very good captain during some pretty
complicated periods," said former teammate and current Toulouse coach
"He knew how to steer the boat and always led by
Philippe Saint-Andre took over from Lievremont and Dusautoir
carried on as captain in times that were also not straightforward.
"I never stopped believing in this squad," he said
after last year's Six Nations, when France again underperformed.
Dusautoir, whose final record reads 41 wins for 37 defeats
and two draws, added Saturday: "My personality has always been to give my
maximum to the French team and to my club before thinking about myself.
"Although I am proud and ambitious, I think I am also
someone who is honest."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is a known fan of Dusautoir,
heaping praise on the flanker, "one of the great players of all
time", before their final World Cup encounter.
"If there wasn't a certain Richie McCaw running around
during that same period Dusautoir would probably be seen as the guy whose
played the best rugby in that (seven) position over a long period of
time," Hansen said.