There has been a mixed reaction on social media to the revelation that Mathieu Bastareaud will attempt to play at No8 next season for his new club Lyon.
However, the change of scenery is the least of his worries as he attempts a daring transition into a new position.
This is an idea that has been flirted with in the past. Former France international Thomas Castaignède suggested Bastareaud make the change earlier this year in order to prolong his international career, saying that the 30-year-old is now too old to play in the centre.
Bastareaud has since retired from international rugby after failing to make the World Cup training squad but has obviously taken the advice on board.
Bastareaud will be changing position at new club Lyon https://t.co/wi60smvlbj
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 18, 2019
A move like this is unprecedented in modern rugby, particularly for a player so late in their career and playing at the highest level. Younger players in the past have made similar positional switches, but not after they have earned 54 caps for their country.
Former British and Irish Lions No8 Jamie Heaslip has said on Twitter that Bastareaud moving position is a “dangerous thought”, while there has also been a positive reaction on Instagram as well.
One fan said that this transition “should have been done 10 years ago”. Standing at 20 stone, many have felt that the Frenchman is better suited to the pack.
— jamie heaslip (@jamieheaslip) July 18, 2019
Mathieu Bastareaud potentially training to play 8 during his short loan spell at @LeLOURugby
I love the idea of players being able to switch between forwards and backs. Proper “Total Rugby” mindset!
— Andrew Reynolds (@Andy_RennRugby) July 18, 2019
Always thought of Bastareaud as an 8! https://t.co/EBtpHgY6YL
— Carwyn Morris (@Cazzzzz95) July 18, 2019
However, a move like this will inevitably have its critics. One fan said on Instagram that “I doubt he’ll have the fitness and mobility to be effective at the breakdown and set-piece”.
That is understandable as there is more to playing in the back row than simply being big. But Bastareaud’s work at the breakdown has always been underestimated, as his solid physique makes him hard to shift when he is over the ball.
There will be greater demand for him to carry and tackle in the forwards, and it is unseen whether he will have the stamina to do so.
This is one thing that the rugby world will curiously wait to see unfold, as it will be fascinating to see if a player could make this kind of transition.
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