France recall Bastareaud
Mathieu Bastareaud (File)
Paris - Mathieu Bastareaud's chequered career has taken a new turn with his recall to the France squad for the Six Nations.
The barrel-chested, 110kg centre benefits from a consistent run of fine form with his club Toulon, playing the inspired battering-ram foil to English flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson and Australian midfield partner Matt Giteau in the Top 14 and European Cup.
Bastareaud has been out of international favour since the win over England in March 2010 that saw France claim a Six Nations Grand Slam, missing out on then-coach Marc Lievremont's squad for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
It was in that country where the Paris-born back's future was called into doubt after he admitted lying about a late-night mugging when on a summer tour there.
He claimed that facial injuries he had received had been caused by a group of men who assaulted him outside the team hotel late at night. It later transpired that the wounds had been self inflicted after he got back to his room drunk and fell over a chair.
But a move from Stade Francais to Toulon has reignited Bastareaud's desire on the pitch, and current France coach Philippe Saint-Andre could not afford to overlook one of the Top 14's form players.
"I'm very happy and very proud," said Bastareaud, who made his debut for France in the Six Nations match against Wales in February 2009 - when he was named man-of-the-match.
"It's not a massive surprise because my name's been bandied about a bit at the moment.
"I've been waiting for this call-up and I want to share it with my teammates, the club, fans and my family, all of whom have always believed in me, notably in the tough times."
Bastareaud, particularly when at Stade Francais, has long battled weight problems, but he acknowledged that the move to the Mediterranean had been good for his physique.
"In the first six months of the season, I've really worked hard with the Toulon backroom staff and the work has paid off," the 24-year-old said.
"I don't know if I'll make the cut for the 23-strong group (which Saint-Andre will name on January 28), but everything in its own time.
"For the moment, I'm thrilled to get back down to (the French training centre of) Marcoussis. I'm on my little cloud, but the most important thing is tomorrow's match," he said in reference to Saturday's European Cup game against Cardiff.
France play their Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 3.