Elissalde, Bastareaud recalled for Six Nations

France has recalled veteran scrumhalf Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and centre Mathieu Bastareaud in a squad to prepare for next month’s Six Nations championship.

Julien Dupuy is banned for eye-gouging while fellow scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili is injured, allowing Elissalde to return to coach Marc Lievremont’s 30-man squad that has been hit by injuries and suspension.

Lievremont hopes that Elissalde “will show all his qualities” as one of the most creative halfbacks in French rugby, even though the Toulouse player is one of France’s least physical players.

“He has an extraordinary vision of the game,” Lievremont said.

“Jean-Baptiste deserves to be back with us.”

Bastareaud admitted lying to New Zealand police on tour last June over a late night incident that left him with an injured eye socket. Those lies led to French Prime Minister Francois Fillon apologising to his New Zealand counterpart, John Key.

“The unfortunate Bastareaud episode of [last] summer is closed for us now,” Lievremont said. “Mathieu Bastareaud’s return is justified by his club performances [for Stade Francais] and the fact he has started his community service work.”

Lievremont, who will trim the squad to 23 before France’s opening game against Scotland at Murrayfield on February 7, dropped flyhalf Frederic Michalak and utility back Maxime Medard while prop Fabien Barcella and fullback Damien Traille are also injured.

“There is no problem with Michalak — we have always liked his punch and his creativity,” Lievremont said. “Max is playing less well at the moment, and others are in form.”

France is in a strong position to challenge for the Six Nations title with home games against defending Grand Slam champion Ireland, Italy and England.

Even though France conceded five unanswered tries in its 39-12 loss to New Zealand in November, Lievremont insists he “saw many encouraging things” in the way the team played.

France dominated South Africa’s huge pack in an impressive 20-13 victory and then crushed Samoa 43-5 in the November Tests. — Sapa-AP

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