Bastareaud inspired by Wilkinson

Date published: January 29 2014

France centre Mathieu Bastareaud admits that he has benefited from the work ethic displayed by Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon.

France centre Mathieu Bastareaud admits that he has benefited from the work ethic displayed by Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon.

The 25-year-old's career has bounced back from a rocky period with Stade Français and an incident in 2009 when touring New Zealand with France where he made up a story of being attacked, when actually falling over whilst drunk.

Bastareaud has since moved to Toulon, become a European champion after winning last season's Heineken Cup, and is now back in the national fold and in good shape ahead of the Six Nations.

Part of that, according to the 110kg outside centre, is watching Wilkinson and Toulon back Matt Giteau go the extra mile.

“I arrive early to training at Toulon, before almost everyone else, but not early enough to beat Jonny there,” Bastareaud told the Telegraph.

“You see what he does and you can only admire it. You know, here in France, we can be a bit lazy. If we get something to 100 per cent, that is enough. We switch off, have a coffee, enjoy the moment.

“These guys, like Jonny, like Matt Giteau [the former Australia back], they reach their goal and then go for more. It is not enough for them. They want to go beyond. That is the Anglo-Saxon way.

“That is now my way. I am more aware these days, more mature. I was a little boy before. Everything came so quickly, too quickly.

“I did not appreciate what was going on. I had it too easy at Stade Français.
“I felt I was assured of my place in the side even if I played poorly. I could just shrug and look forward to the next game if things didn't go well.

“At Toulon it is completely different. There are great, great players all around.
“They are cool and laid-back as people but as soon as they approach training or get near Stade Felix Mayol, a switch is flicked and they are in the zone.

“The bar is set high. There is real competition for places. One duff game and you can be out on your ear.

“And then there is Bernard Laporte [the former France coach who is now in charge at Toulon]. He has eyes in the back of his head. He sees everything. There is no slacking with him around.”

Bastareaud is often regarded as merely a bulldozing rumbler in midfield, but having already won 18 caps the Paris-born star is looking to expand his game in a similar manner to All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu.

“I am trying to evolve, trying to do something different from just crashing the ball up all the time,” added Bastareaud.

“Of course, you must use that strength you have too but always be aware of your team-mates around you so that you can suck in defenders and then pop them through the hole.

“But look how Ma'a Nonu [the equally imposing All Black centre] has developed. That is what I must do. He is a model for me. Jonny is helping me with my kicking game, another left-footer.

“You know, I am 25 now, and time is passing so fast. If I want to be a grand joueur, I have to make my mark. There are young kids coming through and we all want that shirt.”