‘A pleasure and an honour’ to play against O’Driscoll, says Bastareaud

French centre gives reaction to defeat by Ireland

Ireland’s flanker Chris Henry (second right) tackles France’s centre Mathieu Bastareaud during the Six Nations at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. Photograph: AFP Photo

Ireland’s flanker Chris Henry (second right) tackles France’s centre Mathieu Bastareaud during the Six Nations at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. Photograph: AFP Photo


Another Irish man

who thrived in Paris, James Joyce, wrote: “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

The man we sought for words on Brian O’Driscoll’s departure was his would-be conqueror, Mathieu Bastareaud.

“He does not speak English,” said the French handler.

It was late Saturday night and we knew she was ill-informed. He speaks English.

“Okay. One question only as Mathieu speaks less English than I.”

Above us, O’Driscoll was speaking to the world’s media. In the cavern below we watched as this gentle yet beastly 13 spoke in his native tongue.

No Irish player had emerged as defeated French men poured through the mixed zone. Waiting around idly and without the language, we witnessed the childlike gait of this humongous being who after decimating Rob Kearney stalled over the Ireland fullback as the camera followed the relieving punt.

Polluted Parisian air
Bastareaud was not taunting but wondering if his rival’s ribs were intact. Kearney refused to show weakness but when the Toulon centre wandered away Rob sucked deep for some polluted Parisian air.

Kearney rose like a gladiator having felt the lion’s breath and galloped back into the fray.

Later, when Jonathan Sexton attempted to tackle Bastareaud high, thereby denying the offload, the Racing Metro 92 outhalf met the full force of his forearm.

What happened next was a sight to behold. For such a punishing player stopping, a second time over the 80 minutes, to check the wellbeing of an opponent he just battered over was incongruous.

“I saw that he wasn’t moving too much anymore and that he wasn’t in a good way,” he said in French. “It’s kind of normal. Even if we have opponents on the pitch, we’re still human. I can’t leave him freaking out when he could be risking the worst. I find that normal.”

A pleasure and an honour
We felt obliged to use our English question on the obvious.

“For me it was a pleasure and an honour to play against Brian O’Driscoll because I remember when I was younger I watched him on the TV and today I played for his last game, so good luck for him.”

He hesitates for a second and the Six Nations dissipates before our eyes.

“I think I will play him in two, three weeks,” he giggled.

We had forgotten. Leinster go to Toulon for that quarter- final on April 6th.

“Two big teams. I think it will be a big game. Lot of good player on the field.”

Is he the greatest centre Bastareaud has ever faced?

“Maybe the most clever. All the time he watch around him and anticipate.”

His peripheral vision?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. In defence, in attack, good skills. Good defence. He is very complete. I don’t know it in English . . .Aura? His aura is very impressive. I had the honour to face Umaga too and now I’ve had the honour to play in Brian O’Driscoll’s last game. It’s really something.

“I think a lot of player will be happy today.”

You will still try to run over him next month?

“Yeah [I’ll] try. Poor me.”

He sniggers like a schoolboy and is away. Fine man.

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