The impact that ex-France midfielder Mathieu Bastareaud made for Lyon while playing at No8 last Sunday in the Champions Cup didn’t go unnoticed by The Rugby Pod in their assessment of an opening-round weekend where French clubs won seven of their eight matches. 

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The eminence of the French, who had four away winners, eclipsed the form shown by the English clubs who managed just two wins from eight games, while the participating PRO14 clubs fared just one better than the Premiership with three wins from eight. 

Bastareaud returned to club rugby in France during the lockdown following a brief stay at Rugby United New York and the former centre has settled into a new position, playing as the No8 at Lyon. 

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He was to the fore in their 55-10 demolition of Gloucester, scoring a 23rd-minute try from close range and clocking up 54 metres from his dozen carries while carrying additional poundage for back row duty compared to how he looked during his midfield heyday. 

This beefier complexion was referenced in this week’s Rugby Pod show co-hosted by Jim Hamilton and Andy Goode, the pair of former internationals who couldn’t resist a giggle at the expense of Bastareaud, the 32-year-old who tips the scales at 125kgs according to the Lyon club website but looks to be heavier than that. 

It was ex-Scotland lock Hamilton who opened the discussion on Bastareaud, a topic ex-England out-half Goode quickly warmed to:  

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JH: I have only seen clips of Lyon-Gloucester but oh my Bastareaud, have you see the size of him at No8?

AG: He has got bigger, hasn’t he? 

JH: He could arguably be the biggest No8 in world rugby. My goodness me. 

AG: He played well, though. Short bursts. He was getting involved in mauls. It must be horrible. If you are a back and you get involved in a mauling session, how sore is your face after mauling? 

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JH: Ridiculous. Energy sapping. I heard (Sam) Warburton talking about it on comms and I was ‘Sam, you were at the back of mauls, mate. You don’t know what it means to be in a maul.’ It’s energy-sapping, but Bastaureud…

AG: He’s had a big lockdown, hasn’t he? 

JH: Yes!  

Switching to the impressive opening weekend form of the French clubs in the Champions Cup, Goode added: “It’s not a surprise really. If you look back at the pandemic, the French Top 14 clubs ended their season, they said ‘we’re not going to see the season out, we’re not going to play all the games’. 

“They have been going in the Top 14 for about ten, eleven weeks since they just restarted the new season in normal time around September. They are primed.

“Look across at some massive performances: Clermont going to Bristol, a hell of a game. Toulouse going over to Ulster, massive win for them. La Rochelle beating Edinburgh. Bordeaux going to Northampton – you don’t necessarily always look at French teams and say ‘there’s going to be four of them winning away from home’.

“Toulouse, Clermont, Racing, they are all potential favourites to win this tournament. A really good weekend for the French clubs, not so much the English. But two English clubs did win, the two (league) finalists, Exeter and the mighty Wasps. Tough one for English clubs and I just think it is a knock-on effect (from the Premiership).”

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