Saturday, March 6, 2010

Six Nations 2010: France's Mathieu Bastareaud goes up against Brian O'Driscoll

At Murrayfield he confronted his demons and scored two tries, and now in Paris Mathieu Bastareaud will face the world's best centre – Brian O'Driscoll.
It will be a pivotal clash in probably the key game of the 2010 Six Nations. Bastareaud is beginning to make the headlines for the right reasons again, for which he and France are grateful.

O'Driscoll has reigned supreme for a decade since then, but you fancy Bastareaud is a worthy opponent and an individual capable of being the benchmark midfield player in the Six Nations well into this next decade. A changing of the guard possibly? O'Driscoll will resist, like all great players do, but the result should be a fascinating cameo within the bigger contest under the floodlights at Saint- Denis.

"He is only 21 but he is already a very complete player," said his co-centre, Yannick Jauzion, still no mean operator himself. "People see a young man of massive strength but they do not always understand his speed and the way he links with people. He has made a big impact already and it is still so early in his career."

"Mathieu is a wiser man. He has apologised to everybody who needed apologising to many times over. He cannot apologise any more, the incident is over. He can only play good rugby and conduct himself in the appropriate fashion. His abilities have always been evident and now he is a hungry man with points to prove, which is always good in a player."

Going forward Bastareaud is undoubtedly a force of nature if used correctly, although his defence has rarely been fully tested, something Ireland and O'Driscoll will look to exploit on Saturday afternoon.

It is his temperament, however, that will come under the sternest examination, the ability to make the appropriate call at the right time. Something that eluded him off the field last summer.

µ Lièvremont has named an unchanged 23-man squad for Saturday's game with Ireland although wings Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Fall and prop Luc Ducalcon face fitness tests.

Though his side got off to a successful start at Murrayfield, beating Scotland 18-9, Lièvremont accused Welsh referee Nigel Owens of denying his side a bigger victory.

"I have to pay tribute to the courage of the Scots but the referee's leniency with them and his extreme severity with our team was one of the reasons why the score was not higher," Lièvremont said.

"I feel sad because it's a bit recurring. We can't forget that last year in Dublin, there were 13 penalties against us and two against Ireland," he said, referring to France's 30-21 defeat at Croke Park in a game also controlled by Owens.

"We are going to polish up our report to Paddy O'Brien. Refereeing is a factor of the game we can't control but we'll still try to solve the problem."

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