France v Wales, Six Nations Championship, February 27
Bastareaud out to make an impact
February 26, 2009
Mathieu Bastareaud is all set to make his France debut against Wales © Getty Images
Mathieu Bastareaud has every intention of making an impact when he lines up for his debut France appearance against Wales on Friday. At 20 years old Bastareaud has made a name for himself with Stade Francais fans as an explosive ball-carrier in midfield, and he will need to be at his best against a powerful Welsh pairing of Tom Shanklin and Jamie Roberts at the Stade de France.
Bastareaud, the cousin of Arsenal defender William Gallas, scored a trademark try for Stade Francais against Tana Umaga's Toulon last Friday, bursting through two tacklers with ease before crossing. His pace and physicality will give the Welsh defence plenty to think about as he looks to punch holes for France's pacy wingers to exploit.
"I have just realised two major dreams," said Bastareaud. "On Friday, I played against my idol, Tana Umaga, which was a great honour. But what is happening now is over and above what I could have hoped for this season.
"I thought about it, of course, but without letting it go to my head. It's a dream come true. I'm very happy and very proud to be here. Now I'm going to represent my country the best I can. I love these kind of matches, where the stakes are high and there is pressure."
With France misfiring so far in this year's Six Nations there will be added pressure as they look to tackle the current champions. Bastareaud believes that the game will be a true test of his international caredentials.
"The reality always comes on the pitch," he said. "I'm trying to get rid of the extra pressure brought on from the fact we are playing the best side in Europe, the holders of the title. France have been spoken about and criticised of late, so we are going to try to bounce back in this match. So it will be a big test, not just for France but for me, to see if I am ready to play at this high level."
Despite Bastareaud doubting that Gallas would have heard of his call-up, the Arsenal star offered some words of support for his cousin.
"Mathieu has a good head on his shoulders, he is mature for his age," Gallas told Aujourd'hui Sport. "I'm proud of him. I am trying to offer some of my experience about this world of sharks that he is going to enter into. I advise him to only trust the words of his mother."