Former All Blacks star Dan Carter has paid tribute to Christophe Dominici, who passed away on Tuesday aged 48, saying he encapsulated the stylish way French teams traditionally approach rugby.
Carter, the record point scorer in international rugby, had a playing career that overlapped with Dominici’s 67 appearances for France between 1998 and 2007.
He remembers watching the winger’s scintillating try in France’s famous victory over the All Blacks in the 1999 World Cup semifinals.
“I was in tears actually after we lost that game — I thought the All Blacks were going to go all the way that World Cup,” Carter tells CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies.
“But he destroyed us, he had an amazing game.
“To me, he epitomized that French flair. We talk so much about French flair and he was one of those players that was just electric, could turn a game on its head with an amazing moment or try like we saw at the ’99 World Cup.”
The Nanterre Prosecutor Office told CNN an inquiry into the cause of Dominici’s death is underway.
An exciting winger who will be remembered as one of France’s greatest players, Dominici played in three World Cups and won four Six Nations titles, including grand slams in 1998 and 2004.
“It’s sad,” Carter added. “Any time an ex-player — even more so when a player that you know and have played against passes away — it’s the news that you never want to hear about.”
Tributes, led by Dominici’s former club Stade Francais, have poured in from across the rugby community.
“It is with immense sadness and deep sorrow that Stade Francais Paris learns of the passing of Christophe Dominici,” read a statement from the club released on Tuesday.
“During the 11 years spent under our colors, Christophe has, thanks to his incredible talent and class, greatly contributed to writing the legend of the club.
It added: “A rugby genius and an unparalleled companion, he leaves a great void in our great family. Our thoughts go out to his family, his partner Loretta, his daughters Chiara and Mia.”
Dominici started his career with RC La Valette in 1991 before joining Toulon two years later. He eventually moved to Stade Francais in 1997 where he won five national titles.
“A legend of @FranceRugby and an all-time great of the game. Rest In Peace, Christophe Dominici,” World Rugby wrote on social media, while the All Blacks paid tribute to a player “small in stature but a titan on the field … Rest In Peace dear friend.”
A number of other former rugby greats have joined Carter in paying tribute to Dominici.
“The death of Christophe Dominici is terribly sad,” said former England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson. “We think of all his relatives. The world of sport has lost a true legend.”
Former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll, who also faced Dominici during his playing career, said: “Very sad to hear of the sudden passing of Christophe Dominici. A French player full of flair with huge success throughout his career. May he RIP.”