Trinh-Duc happy to be back
Francois Trinh-Duc (Gallo Images)
Marcoussis - He may not have played for France since the last Six Nations but Montpellier flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc has been the happiest man in camp since joining the French squad on Sunday.
An injury to current first choice No.10 Remi Tales meant a space opened up in the extended 30-man France squad and coach Philippe Saint-Andre turned to the most experienced pure fly-half he has in 27-year-old Trinh-Duc.
"It's going to be hard to wipe (the smile) off my face," said Trinh-Duc when he met the media following his call-up.
"This is very, very good for my head."
Trinh-Duc got his international break under Saint-Andre's predecessor Marc Lievremont in 2008 and was largely first choice until the 2011 World Cup where he slipped down the order but nevertheless played outstandingly when he came on as a replacement in the final with the All Blacks when Morgan Parra was injured.
Under Saint-Andre he barely had a look in last year, enduring a frustrating 2013 Six Nations, in which he started just one match, against England, and even then lasted only until 12 minutes into the second half, and found himself left out of the touring party to New Zealand in June.
He did not even earn a recall for the November internationals.
Saint-Andre's reluctance to trust Trinh-Duc has left many commentators and experts perplexed, not least England's World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward, and ex-England centre Jermey Guscott, both now working as television pundits and both confirmed admirers of the man they describe as by far France's best fly-half.
Yet when the original 30-man party was announced for the training camps ahead of Saturday's Six Nations opener against England at the Stade de France, Trinh-Duc's name was noticeable by its absence.
Tales was picked alongside Toulon's versatile but inconsistent half-back Frederic Michalak, more often used as a scrum-half throughout his career, and 22-year-old Stade Francais starlet Jules Plisson.
But this second lease of life in a France jersey seems to have motivated Trinh-Duc, who has 48 caps to his name.
"I'm coming back just like for my first selection, with a lot of 'punch', desire, joy and hunger," said the Montpellier player.
"It's true that it's been a long time. I've been dedicated, I've worked hard. It's been tough but I didn't give up, my aim was always to get back in the French team.
"Now it's almost done. But I'm not here to take revenge against anyone."
Trinh-Duc was criticised for defensive mistakes, his tactical kicking game and his application within the group during the last Six Nations, but he insists he's been working on improving ever since.
"I always kept contact (with the France set-up) to have a core of work, of objectives," said Trinh-Duc.
"I kept training, I did some extra while thinking of France.
"I've been working on my kicking game with someone in particular, that's brought me a lot.
"It's mostly a different approach, I'm taking pleasure in doing extra work after training."