Bastareaud right player to lead way for French

Whanganui Chronicle - - Sport Local Classifieds -

For many New Zealand rugby sup­port­ers, France cap­tain Mathieu Bastareaud will be best known for his ex­ploits in Wellington in 2009, when, as a 20-year-old, he lied about an af­ter-hours street as­sault.

It was ob­vi­ously big news at the time, bring­ing into in­ter­na­tional fo­cus as it did the rel­a­tive safety of New Zealand’s cap­i­tal and it got to the stage where Prime Min­is­ter John Key was in­volved. In re­al­ity Bastareaud’s cut eye and bruised face came as a re­sult of a drunken fall in his ho­tel room.

Bastareaud has long been a trou­bled soul. Re­cently he was ac­cused of mak­ing ho­mo­pho­bic slurs while play­ing for his club Toulon and in 2014, shortly be­fore his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Tete Haute (Head Held High) was pub­lished, he said fol­low­ing a de­feat: “I’m a zom­bie. I think that now I’ve come to the end of the road.”

He clearly hadn’t and for that we can all be thank­ful. Now he is the cap­tain of a team that few out­side France will be­lieve can beat the All Blacks at Eden Park to­mor­row, the first of three tests. Per­haps it took time play­ing along­side for­mer All Blacks mid­fielder Ma’a Nonu to bring out the best in Bastareaud, a sim­i­lar player in many ways.

Be­cause, as many North­ern Hemi­sphere writ­ers have sug­gested, that un­cer­tainty is a world away from Bastareaud’s ram­pag­ing style.

Weigh­ing about 120kg, Bastareaud, who has played 45 tests, has the abil­ity to put his team on the front foot one way or an­other. He has al­ways been big, maybe too much so, but that also makes him the player he is.

For­mer Eng­land first five Johnny Wilkin­son de­scribed his for­mer Toulon club-mate as a “su­per­hu­man force”, and wrote the fore­word to Bastareaud’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, in­clud­ing the line: “I re­main con­vinced the best is yet to come for him.”

English­man Dave Attwood, a Bath lock, spent a month on loan at Toulon and crossed paths with Bastareaud and told the Guardian: “The fans are ob­sessed with him, he’s a cult hero. It’s a team of rock stars, but when he speaks, every­one lis­tens and that says a lot about the man.”

Mathieu Bastareaud

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