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Be afraid... Bastareaud is warming up to life as a No.8

By Ian Cameron
Lyon's French flanker Mathieu Bastareaud (L) will miss the rest of the season. (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP)

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After a rocky start to his career as a forward, there is strong evidence that Matthieu Bastareaud is getting used to life as No.8. The 31-year-old made a try-scoring competitive return to Lyon colours against Racing 92, having returned from a stint in Major League Rugby in America which largely failed to live up to the hype.

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Listed at 125kg on LOU website, Bastareaud brushed off defenders in a pre-rehearsed move in the 23rd minute. Standing in scrumhalf position at an attacking lineout, the former centre was popped the ball off the top before crashing over the line from short range.

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Lyon head coach Pierre Mignoni seems to have settled on the ‘Basta’ as a No.8, despite the iconic Frenchman having all 54 of his French caps at centre. Before leaving for America in 2019, Lyon did run him on seven occasions as a forward and Mignoni did move him to centre later in the game, showing Basta is yet to completely give up on moonlighting as a back.

The media reports in France were unanimous – Bastareaud’s return as a forward was a success.

It’s a turnaround for Bastareaud, who had an up and down time as a forward in the MLR with RUNY, where he struggled to cope with a new position, new coaches and a new league. “He is your typical Frenchman,” former England fullback Ben Foden and RUNY teammate told RugbyPass earlier this year. “When things aren’t going well he moans a lot, he throws his arms a lot and things like that.”

“He moved to No.8 and we were starting to use him quite well. You could see in the last two or three games he had come on in leaps and bounds, because he was getting more and more involved in the game.

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“Greg and Butch said they didn’t care what he was doing on the training field as long as he brought it on the weekend, which he had started to do.

“He had run-ins with Greg (McWilliams) our coach and Butch (Dylan Fawsitt) our captain. Bastareaud has played the game for a long time, he’s 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 and Butch is like ‘What’s this guy doing? He’s meant to be a straight trucking 12 or 13’. They just clashed.”

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European clubs have been put on notice. Bastareaud is a genuine threat again, albeit in the troisieme ligne. 

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