France pick Pape as skipper

2013-01-11 12:50

Paris - Lock Pascal Pape is to stay on as captain of France for the Six Nations tournament despite the return to the squad of Thierry Dusautoir, coach Philippe Saint-Andre announced on Friday.

The Stade Francais forward, capped 45 times for his country, was handed the skipper's role for France's November Test matches after Dusautoir was rested to fully recover from a knee injury.

The French won all three games under his captaincy against Australia, Argentina and Samoa -- and that was enough to convince Saint-Andre to stick with Pape despite the return to full fitness of Dusautoir.

Dusautoir has captained France 31 times in 54 appearances, most notably at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand where France reached the final and he was named international player of the year.

Saint Andre said that he wanted to afford Dusautoir sufficient time to get back to the top level he displayed in 2011.

"Thierry, we really wanted him to have the time to properly prepare himself, to get back to his best form and not to heap extra pressure on him.

"He wasn't able to play (for his club) last weekend and he will not play this weekend. We put him in the squad because we know that when he is at 100 percent he is one of the best players in the world.

"Pascal (Pape) is in great form at the moment and as a player he produced high quality performances in the November Tests.

"As a captain he was able to get his message over to the group and to the new generation of players coming through.

"I think we made the right decision."

In announcing a 33-strong squad, Saint-Andre also handed a return to the international scene to powerful Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud, who has been out of favour since the win over England in March 2010.

After exploding onto the scene in the 2009 Six Nations when he won his first cap, Bastareaud fell foul of the French rugby authorities during that summer's tour of New Zealand when he claimed to have been mugged late at night outside the team hotel before admitting later that he had been drinking heavily.

"He has made huge efforts and is more explosive with his running and faster too," said Saint-Andre of the 24-year-old centre.

"He is one of the players we have who have the potential to play at a very, very high level."

Elsewhere, Saint-Andre largely stuck with the group that he used in the November Tests, with the only uncapped player being 22-year-old Perpignan lock Romain Taofifeuna.

The squad will be cut to 23 players on January 28 with France playing their Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 3.

France squad for the Six Nations tournament:

Forwards (19):

Vincent Debaty (Clermont), Thomas Domingo (Clermont), Yannick Forestier (Castres), Benjamin Kayser (Clermont), Guilhem Guirado (Perpignan), Dimitri Szarzewski (Racing-Metro), David Attoub (Stade Franais), Luc Ducalcon (Racing-Metro), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Pascal Pape (Stade Francais, capt), Jocelino Suta (Toulon), Romain Taofifenua (Perpignan), Damien Chouly (Clermont), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Wenceslas Lauret (Biarritz), Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)

Backs (14):

Maxime Machenaud (Racing-Metro), Morgan Parra (Clermont), Frederic Michalak (Toulon), Franois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Jean-Marcellin Buttin (Clermont), Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Brice Dulin (Castres), Benjamin Fall (Racing-Metro), Gael Fickou (Toulouse), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Florian Fritz (Toulouse), Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Maxime Mermoz (Toulon)