Sebastien Chabal is regarded as one of the most intimidating players rugby has seen, typified by his long hair and beard coupled with the scary eyes that put together earned him the nickname I’Homme des Cavernes or ‘The Caveman’.
The Frenchman was a feared rugby player but not one without controversy as he on occasion took his physicality to lengths beyond the game’s laws.
Nevertheless, the 16-year career of one of rugby’s most fascinating characters added significantly to the game.
Chabal was born in Valence, France on December 8, 1977. Growing up, the Frenchman tried rugby as a nine-year-old before stopping after just two months. His attention was mostly on mechanical works which he studied and ended up working in a Salmson factory in Crest.
By this time he had picked up rugby again from when he was 16 and after combining his factory job with amateur rugby he decided to start playing professionally. By 1998 he was in the Bourgoin squad in the French top-flight where he played as a flank.
Chabal’s time with Bourgoin saw him grow tremendously as a player but he was unable to add a piece of silverware in that period. He did, however, feature in the 1998-1998 Challenge Cup final, the final of the Challenge Yves du Manoir in 1999, the semi-final of the 2003-2004 French Championship as well as the League Cup final and the Challenge Sud-Radio, both in 2003.
The Frenchman moved on from his first club in 2004 when Philippe Saint-Andre signed him at Sale Sharks, where he would settle in at number eight. Chabal would win the first trophy of his career that season in the 2004-2005 Challenge Cup.
The good fortunes would continue for the robust loose forward as Sale would go on to lift the Premiership title the very next season. Chabal’s controversial reputation would begin to take shape when he was banned for stamping Lawrence Dallaglio in 2006.
The remainder of his time at Sale would not result in any more silverware but would see Chabal interestingly play in the second-row for his final season at the club before he returned to France, signing for recently promoted Racing 92.
His time with the club yielded no trophies but did see him reportedly become the highest-paid player at the time, earning €1 million per year. He would also cop a lengthy ban for criticising referees in 2011.
Chabal would make the move to Lyon in 2012 where he would finish his career by helping the side climb out of the Pro D2 and into the Top 14 in 2014 before retiring.
His time in Lyon would see one of his most controversial moments when he punched Agen’s Marc Giraud in the face, leaving him knocked out.
The Caveman debuted against Scotland in 2000 and did not feature for France for the rest of the year, with his second cap only coming in 2001.
The first portion of his Test career he won most of his caps off the bench as flank or number eight cover. He travelled to Australia for the 2003 Rugby World Cup featuring in two games against Japan and the USA but was very much a fringe player at that time.
He struggled to establish himself in the French side until 2007 when he would play a more important role in France’s Six Nations triumph. Bernard Laporte, who was France’s head coach at the time, would select the star for the home World Cup that year but as a second-row alternative.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) May 30, 2023
By now the Frenchman had developed his iconic look and was a feared player who was renowned for his powerful cameos off the bench.
He would be in and out of the France squad for the next couple of years before he was left out of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which resulted in him hanging up his boots on the Test scene.
Happy birthday Sébastien Chabal 🎉
The man hit big 👊💥🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/dm1FSX1LoP
— Rugby Lives (@RugbyLives) December 8, 2017
Chabal is believed to have an estimated net worth of $5 million, although it cannot be said for certain.