The founder of Rugby League in France was born on this day in 1905
Jean Galia, born 20 March 1905, was a French rugby union and Rugby League player and champion boxer.
He is credited with establishing the sport of rugby league in France in 1934, where it is known as rugby à treize.
A forward, Galia made his international debut for the France national rugby union team in a 1927 test against England in Paris.
After 20 internationals, He later played in France’s first-ever Rugby League international, also against England in Paris, on 15 April 1934 and was captain of the France national Rugby League team in its early days.
Following France’s tour of Northern England, Galia arranged a series of demonstration matches around France.
On New Year’s Eve 1933, England and Australia played in Paris – the first game of Rugby League football in France.
The match was one-sided, with Australia winning 63-13 in front of a crowd of around 5,000, but the seed was sown.
French rugby union players, disgruntled that France had been suspended from the Five Nations Championship, formed the “Ligue Francaise de Rugby à XIII” on 6 April 1934.
Galia, a former rugby union international and champion boxer, led France on a six-match tour of England in 1934 and they recorded their first win in Hull. The national team’s first game was in Paris on 15 April 1934, losing 21-32 to England in front of a crowd of 20,000.
By 1939, the French League had 225 clubs and the national side won the 1938-39 European Rugby League Championship where they became the first French team in any sport to beat England at home.
The Courtney Goodwill Trophy, international rugby league’s first, was presented for the first time in 1936 and depicted Galia, along with other pioneering greats of the code, James Lomas (Britain), Albert Baskiville (New Zealand) and Dally Messenger (Australia).
Galia died in Toulouse aged just 43 on January 17, 1949.
In 1988, he was inducted into the International Rugby League Hall of Fame.