Key Points:

Cult heroes in rugby. Jonah Lomu, of course, comes to mind in New Zealand as does Tana 'Oooh, Aaah' Umaga. Chainsaw Laney had his followers down at Carisbrook as did Steve Hotton, while the 'Bring Back Buck' campaign still gets global displays.

Tracking down significant supporters' sects is an unrewarding task throughout the rugby globe.

But there is a burgeoning following for the man known as Sea Bass, the Anaesthetist or the Caveman at Edgely Park, home of the Sale Sharks near Manchester.

The level of support is sensational but, quaintly, all the English approval is for bearded, long-haired French loose forward enforcer Sebastien Chabal.

His Sale supporters love wearing T-shirts showing Chabal's face over a skull and crossbones with the slogan 'Cha-bad to the Bone' in reference to a song from George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

The band name is an appropriate connection to Chabal's rugby methods where his power running and ruthless tackling have embellished his reputation.

His appearance helps too with the heavy beard and mane of black hair swept up into a top knot, giving him the look of someone who could be wrestling for his paycheck or featuring in some horror movie. Chabal weighs in around 115kg and has massive forearms and hands, but beneath the fearsome presence is a man of some humour and warmth.

Sale prop Andrew Sheridan gave him the Caveman nickname. No problem, he would not argue with someone who was that [expletive deleted] strong. A deep chuckle slides out beneath his thick beard and he laughs further in explaining how Sea Bass was an epithet bestowed on him by Sale coach and fellow Frenchman Philippe Saint-Andre, to illustrate that he was the big fish the club had caught.

He took no offence from the image or the emotional Sale support and felt it was a compliment if he was compared to the impact Jerry Collins brought to his work with the All Blacks.

The pair would not meet tomorrow at Eden Park but Chabal was keen to get about his business.

"I expect to win," he said first up, "because I think if you go to play a game and you think you will lose then it is better to stay at home and watch a good movie.

"We will try to have a good game and give everything we have."

His club season finished six weeks ago so he had freshened.

But he was still recovering from jetlag and was a little match-rusty. Rugby in England was more "direct" than the game in France and he liked those aggressive confrontations.

He and his family were comfortable living in Manchester, they spent their leisure time exploring the country, but he did not care much for football or league which dominate the sporting landscape.

Chabal used to play on the side of the scrum but in recent seasons has swapped to No 8 and adapted his game.

"That has opened my eyes, my vision on the pitch, I try to play for things after me like not going on the floor after contact, try to pass - things I did not do before."

The 29-year-old has played 27 tests and is one of a small group on this French tour who are serious challengers for places in the World Cup.

He has won inconsistent approval from French coach Bernard Laporte since his test debut in 2000 and knows, despite all the rave reviews in the Northern Hemisphere, that this tour is a landmark trip for him.