Bastareaud: Warning hit home
Mathieu Bastareaud admits it took a new dedication to training for him to force himself back into the reckoning for the France squad.
The bruising Toulon centre was included in coach Philippe Saint-Andre's provisional 33-man party for the RBS 6 Nations, having not featured for his country since their 2010 Grand Slam. His club coach Bernard Laporte revealed he had warned the 24-year-old that "if he did not apply himself, it was over". And Bastareaud said that lesson hit home.
"I decided I had to really push myself in training and no longer content myself with just getting by," he told L'Equipe. "It would have been disrespectful to the club and the supporters. There are a lot of people who would like to be in my place."
Bastareaud is one of four centres included in the squad and will compete for his place with incumbent starters Florian Fritz and Maxime Mermoz as well as Toulouse's rising star Gael Fickou. The latter is ecstatic simply to have been included in the party and said: "For me, it is enormous. Not long ago I was watching it on television.
"I will do all I can to stay in the group. To play even one game would be exceptional."
Saint-Andre will announce his final squad on January 28. His options in the back row of the scrum are even stronger than those in midfield, with former captain Thierry Dusautoir back from injury to join a formidable selection which also includes Yannick Nyanga, Louis Picamoles, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Damien Chouly and Wenceslas Lauret.
Dusautoir only returned to training on Wednesday and has been left out of Toulouse's clash with Treviso - like wing Maxime Medard, who is not included in France's initial selection after missing most of 2012 with a serious knee injury. The flanker has also passed the captaincy on to second-rower Pascal Pape, allowing him to focus on recovering his form and fitness.
France provisional squad for RBS 6 Nations:
Forwards: V Debaty (Clermont), T Domingo (Clermont), Y Forestier (Castres), B Kayser (Clermont), G Guirado (Perpignan), D Szarzewski (Racing Metro), D Attoub (Stade Francais), L Ducalcon (Racing Metro), N Mas (Perpignan), Y Maestri (Toulouse), P Pape (captain, Stade Francais), J Suta (Toulon), R Taofifenua (Perpignan), D Chouly (Clermont), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), W Lauret (Biarritz), Y Nyanga (Toulouse), F Ouedrogo (Montpellier), L Picamoles (Toulouse).
Backs: M Machenaud (Racing Metro), M Parra (Clermont), F Michalak (Toulon), F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Bastareaud (Toulon), J-M Buttin (Clermont), V Clerc (Toulouse), B Dulin (Castres), B Fall (Racing Metro), G Fickou (Toulouse), W Fofana (Clermont), F Fritz (Toulouse), Y Huget (Toulouse), M Mermoz (Toulon).