Auckland - Utility back Damien Traille was so stunned to be named on the bench for Sunday's Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand that he thought there had been a mistake when his name was read out.
Traille's World Cup appeared to be over when he was dropped for three matches following the 37-17 pool stage loss to the All Blacks, but coach Marc Lievremont surprisingly recalled him Friday among the reserves to face the All Blacks.
"It was a big surprise to me when they named the reserves ... I even thought it was an error when they read my name out," Traille said. "I didn't hold out much hope of being in the squad, especially since Marc had made it clear after the quarterfinal that he was looking for stability."
But Traille's ability to play in several roles, his vast experience, and his defensive kicking has worked in his favour for the final.
The 32-year-old Traille has scored 15 tries in 85 Tests for France, and also played in the 2007 quarter-final win over the All Blacks, when his excellent kicking in general play from fullback helped take the pressure off the defence.
"It was pure selection; Damien is a big game player. He had an outstanding game that day in 2007," defence coach David Ellis said. "We've got a few left-footers in the team. Damien is a right-footer, so he gives the extra option, but he could also use him at No. 10, in at centre or at fullback, so there are various different options."
Lievremont waited until Friday to name his reserves bench, three days after confirming the same starting XV he has used throughout the knockout stage.
Traille takes the place of fullback Cedric Heymans, who drops out of the 22-man match squad.
Elsewhere on the bench, Lievremont has kept the same reserves that were on the bench for the 9-8 semi-final win over Wales, with flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc and utility halfback Jean-Marc Doussain providing cover for Dimitri Yachvili and Morgan Parra.
There appeared little chance Traille would return after he was publicly critical of Lievremont's decision to take him off at half-time during the defeat to the All Blacks.
"There was a lot of debate about what I had said that I didn't get any explanation from Marc. I got one afterward, so things were clear between us," Traille said. "Then, after that, it was a question of sporting choice. So I had nothing to say about it. But I showed a lot of commitment in training every week and wanted to show I deserved a place, even though the squad (seemed to be) set in place until the end. Now I've got my reward."
Traille admits the solitude did get to him, and the other players who have found them shut out.
"I went through a lot of (emotions). Disappointment after coming off at halftime against the All Blacks, and staying in the stands for so long," he said. "We drank a few (beers) to forget ... I'm disappointed for those who are not in the squad, I know how it feels. It's very hard to watch from the stands, but we've said since the beginning that we all have to stick together."
Traille is desperate to be involved at some stage in the final, although he admits he is a bit rusty.
"Of course I want to come on. It's difficult being a reserve, you never know when you're going to come on," he said. "Nothing replaces games, you can be as fit as you want, and that doesn't make up for it."
15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12
Maxime Mermoz, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Morgan Parra, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8
Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5
Lionel Nallet, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1
Substitutes: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17
Fabien Barcella, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20
Jean-Marc Doussain, 21 François Trinh-Duc, 22 Damien Traille
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12
Ma'a Nonu, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran
Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad
Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Adam Thomson, 20
Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Sonny Bill Williams