Twenty years ago on Wednesday, France was rocked by the extraordinary and horrifying death of one of the nation's greatest ever rugby players.
Armand Vaquerin is the most decorated player in French rugby history. He is the only man to have taken part in all 10 of Beziers' French rugby championship victories between 1971 and 1984 (as well as being on the losing side in the final in 1976) and was a regular for Les Bleus.
The word "legend" is bandied around all too frequently when talking about sportsmen, but in the case of Armand Vaquerin that is exactly what we're talking about. A monstrous 6ft, 16st prop, he played the game with style, grit and outrageous violence at the heart of France's notorious front row of the 1970s.
Rugby Union as played today bears almost no relation to the game in the 1970s, when Vaquerin was a key man in the all-conquering Beziers team that dominated French rugby for more than a decade.
Balding, always moustached and often bearded, and sporting a deceptively kindly face that belied his brutal ferocity, he was at the front line of perhaps the toughest group of scrummagers ever assembled in club rugby.
Back then, as Peter Jackson once wrote in the Evening Standard, "Brutal really was the word. Those were the days when the television camera followed the ball and touch judges were not allowed to flag against foul play, leaving the mayhem merchants scope aplenty."
Former British Lions star Bobby Windsor - a huge Welshman known as the "Iron Duke" - has told of how he broke his nose every single time Wales played France, once had his ear bitten off during a match and considered punches and kicks to the face as completely normal behaviour.
"We'd all be in jail these days," he once said. "You wouldn't have had a game because most of us would have been sent off. They're a lot of sissies playing the game now. Most of them wouldn't have lasted five minutes in my day."
In that context, only the hardest of men survived, and many players' careers lasted only half a dozen years or so if they were playing up front. Yet Vaquerin was at the heart of it for nearly 15 years, alongside such renowned lunatics as Alain "Beast of Beziers" Esteve and Michel Palmie.
Esteve and Palmie's better international records made them more famous on these shores, but in rugby-mad southern France is it Vaquerin who is revered as the greatest hero.
But as great as his exploits on the pitch were, his legend has only been enhanced by the tragic end which came nine years after his retirement.
On July 10 1993, Vaquerin spent the night drinking with friends at a bar that he co-owned called "Le Cardiff" - the name apparently a tribute to his exploits for the French rugby team against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in the Five Nations.
The vin rouge had been flowing freely all night, and Vaquerin was eagerly showing off a revolver he had bought to try and interest some of the other barflys in a game of Russian Roulette. Reports say that he was trying to persuade everyone to have a go by taking the first spin himself.
He picked up the heavy revolver, put it to his temple and pulled the trigger, blowing his brains out in the middle of the bar and killing him instantly. He was 42.
Vaquerin, who had struggled in his post-playing years to cope with the pressure of not having an outlet for his violent streak, would always have been remembered as France's most decorated player. But the horrific manner of his death ensured that he will always be notorious throughout the world.
Yet the ultimate tribute is that in France, it his career on the pitch rather than his bizarre death that he is best remembered for. For Vaquerin, one of the greatest French players ever, has a major pre-season tournament named in his honour, while standing outside the stadium in Beziers is a statue of the great man lifting the French trophy one final time.