PARIS – The death of Christophe Dominici, the quick and charismatic winger who illuminated French rugby from the wing at the turn of the century, has been keenly felt in the world of sport and beyond.
It has even touched on politics, with Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer moving, announcing Dominici’s death in the National Assembly in Paris, immediately prompting politicians to stand up and applaud the former player well -love. Dominici died on Tuesday. He was 48 years old.
England’s World Cup-winning half-wheel Jonny Wilkinson and Irish great Brian O’Driscoll were among those who paid tribute to the scoring winger, whose electrifying pace and flair put fans on the at the edge of their seats and restless opponents often chasing shadows.
His former club Stade Français Paris announced his death on Tuesday without giving more details.
“It is with great sadness and deep sorrow that Stade Français Paris learned of the death of Christophe Dominici,” the statement said. “Rugby genius and unrivaled companion, he will leave a great void in our big family. Our hearts go out to his family, his wife Loretta and his daughters Chiara and Mia.
The French rugby league has said clubs in the top two divisions will pay homage to Dominici in their matches this weekend.
“His classic tries helped develop French flair,” said the NRL, calling him “a great player who brought so much joy and talent to French rugby.
Dominici played 67 times from France over a decade until 2007 and scored 25 tries, among them one of the most famous in Rugby World Cup history.
In the 1999 semi-final against the New Zealand favorite at Twickenham, while chasing a kick from scrum-half Fabien Galthie, Dominici surprised the All Blacks by judging the rebound perfectly, catching the ball with his hand right and tearing two defenders to score between posts. France won against odds 43-31.
He also played in the France squad which played in an even bigger upheaval for New Zealand in the 2007 World Cup quarter-finals, and won the Five Nations once and the Six Nations three times with The Tricolors.
“He left his mark on a whole generation of rugby,” said the French Rugby Federation. “Today, the rugby family has brutally lost a legend, an iconic player.”
At the club level, he won five French championships during a brilliant 11-year period with Stade Français, after starting his career with the Toulon club.
Tributes were rife for Dominici, who was highly regarded by fans, teammates and opposing players.
“Thank you Domi for everything you gave to French rugby and all the good times I had with you,” former France winger and teammate Vincent Clerc said on Twitter.
World Rugby called him “a great player of all time” while the English and Irish federations were quick to offer their condolences.
O’Driscoll, one of the best centers to have played the game, praised his former opponent and fellow rugby host.
“A French player full of flair with enormous success throughout his career,” said O’Driscoll.
Wilkinson, who played at the Toulon club at the end of his career, chose to pay tribute on Twitter in French.
“The death of Christophe Dominici is terribly said”, he writes. “We think of all his relatives. The whole sport has lost a true legend. “
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports