Mathieu Bastareaud’s short-lived stint at Rugby United New York has come to an end as the ex-French international will be moving to Lyon on a two-year deal in time for the start of the 2020/21 Top 14 season.
Bastareaud’s recruitment by the teething Major League Rugby franchise made headlines around the rugby world when he agreed to move to America from Toulon last season.
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Rugby United New York’s Ben Foden chats to Jim Hamilton in the latest episode of The Lockdown, the new RugbyPass series
However, the MLR last month pulled the plug on its 2020 season just five games into the campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak and Bastareaud has now decided to head back to French rugby rather than commit to a second year in New York as had been hoped for by the club.
James Kennedy, Rugby United New York’s majority owner, told RugbyPass: “He will be in Top 14, he has got a two-year contract with Lyon. He will be over there and will do well.”
It was at Lyon last August where the long-established midfielder first unveiled his positional switch to No8. Having failed to get selected in Jacques Brunel’s France World Cup squad for the finals in Japan, Bastareaud played in seven Top 14 matches at the start of the 2019/20 season for Lyon before arriving in New York after touring in November with the Barbarians.
He started the American season back in the midfield but soon switched into the No8 role and Kennedy believes his marquee French signing was coming into form despite start-of-season criticism that he was not as fit as he needed to be.
“There are two parts to Mathieu. First of all, as a human being, he was bang on, one of the best I have ever come across. Legitimately, he couldn’t do enough.
“But playing, he came in overweight. Basically, he had been on the Baa-Baas for three weeks and was working his way back into form, moving into back row. He was getting better every week.
“He was having a hell of a more effect on practice, his leadership was starting to come to the top and he was getting things simplified and cleaned up.
“His game against San Diego, our last game, was his best game. He was the best player on the field. He didn’t get man of the match but the stats spoke for themselves. He was definitely starting to find form.
"Your Fodens and all these other players…They kind of disappear into the background whereas this guy absolutely does not.”
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“He was working really hard, training twice a day, five days a week with the team and then on his own with his own trainer. I feel bad for him, I really do. People jump on his back really quickly, especially in France, but he was really going in the right direction.
“You feel bad for him, you feel bad for Cathal Marsh, guys like that who are moving on. Some are hanging their boots up, Basta is going back to Lyon for two years. He has only just turned 31 so he might be back in a RUNY shirt in two years. His visa will allow him to if he wants, so let’s see.”
While most of RUNY’s international contingent headed for home as soon as the season was terminated, Bastareaud is hunkering down in New York where the coronavirus pandemic has now put the city into lockdown.
Ex-England international Ben Foden last week revealed on The Lockdown, the new RugbyPass video interview series, that Bastareaud had clashed with RUNY coach Greg McWilliams and skipper Dylan Fawsitt during his short time at the club.
“He is your typical Frenchman,” said Foden. “When things aren’t going well he moans a lot, he throws his arms a lot and things like that. He had run-ins with Greg, our coach, and Butch (Fawsitt), our captain.
“Bastareaud has played the game for a long time, played at the highest level, gone to World Cups, captained France. Obviously he has the calibre.
“So Butch sees this guy come in and thinks he’s going to reinvent the wheel, thinks he going to be a major force for us. Then in training he’s dropping the ball onto the foot, chipping it through, doing the typical French flair thing.
“Butch is like, ‘What’s this guy doing? He’s meant to be a straight trucking 12 or 13’. They just clashed.”
WATCH: RugbyPass goes behind the scenes at Rugby United New York with Ben Foden
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