Six Nations

Mas not ready to park the bus

2015-02-04 12:26
Nicolas Mas (AFP)

Marcoussis - Grizzled prop Nicolas Mas may be the grand old man of the French scrum but the player nicknamed the 'bus' is not yet ready to admit he has reached the terminus of his career.

Indeed the 34-year-old loosehead prop - for so long a Perpignan stalwart before transferring to Montpellier in 2013 - is contemplating his 10th Six Nations campaign and then going on to the Rugby World Cup later this year.

While he welcomes the competition posed by the younger generation of Stade Francais' 25-year-old Rabah Slimani and La Rochelle's New Zealand-born Uini Atonio, 24, the 76-times capped Mas insists he is not surrendering his place without a right old tussle.

"Our relations are very good," said Mas on Tuesday just days ahead of France's opening Six Nations game with Scotland at the Stade de France.

"They are the future of French rugby and therefore it is necessary for us to interact, for the better of the team.

"One has to react intelligently to competition but I am still eager to exist and to prove that I still have the ability to play at this level."

However, Mas, who is in line to play in his third World Cup and played in the 2011 final where hosts New Zealand edged the French 8-7, acknowledges that there is a life to be enjoyed outside the game as well as pressures from his loved ones to stop.

"One has to know when it is time to stop," he said.

"There is a life after rugby.

"I have three children who are 9 and 6 years-old as well as 19 months.

"I gain a lot of pleasure from coming here (the training centre at Marcoussis) but at the same time it is difficult for my wife who is always left to fend for herself and the children."

Mas, who won one French title with Perpignan as well as appearing in the 2003 European Cup final, is willing to impart his vast knowledge to those who are rising up the ranks even of it takes time to gain his confidence.

"I am not someone who often gives lessons, but if I am asked I will do so and with great pleasure," he said.

"I am a shy person at first but when I like people everything develops well."

Mas says that his main lesson to the younger brigade is that adapting to the heavier demands of the game is the biggest hurdle to succeeding.

"The game is different now," says Mas, who made his international debut in 2003.

"There is the scrum but also other issues such as supporting the ball carrier, the rucks and tackling... one has to fulfil a lot of tasks.

"When one has to hold in the scrum for 15 seconds in the scrum then get back up and run everywhere it becomes difficult.

"However, I am not going to play the 'old bore' who regrets everything and says the whole time 'before everything was better'."

Mas, however, would not swap the grime and grind of being a front row forward for the glamour of the back division for example.

"They say that we stay down too long, that it is not a beautiful spectacle, that the spectators want to watch open rugby... they like the three quarters better who run everywhere rather than a forward who just operates at scrums.

"People must also understand all the effort we put into this sector. It is part of French culture, deep rooted for many years, and we must not lose that because then it would be the death of rugby.

"The young would no longer wish to play prop and everyone would be over two metres tall.

"Our race (props) would no longer exist. And small guys like me would no longer be needed."

Read more on:    six nations  |  rugby

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