Diarra determined to impress

Date published: February 6 2014

France flanker Ibrahim Diarra is determined to prove he is a vastly-improved player from the one who won his only previous cap in 2008.

France flanker Ibrahim Diarra said he is determined to prove that he is a vastly-improved player from the one who won his only previous cap in 2008.

The 30-year-old – who won that cap while playing for Montauban – was called up to the squad for Sunday's Six Nations match with Italy to replace Antoine Burban, who suffered a hamstring injury in last Saturday's 26-24 win over England.

“I was surprised to get the call from Philippe (Saint-André) on Monday to be honest,” he said.

“It's magic to be back but now it is up to me to prove he (Saint-André) was not wrong to recall me.”

Diarra, whose brother Mohamadou plays for Montauban and is a Seneglaese international while his cousin Djibril Camara plays on the wing for Top 14 leaders Stade Francais, said he had made advances in areas of his game that were lacking when he made his previous appearance for France, under former coach Marc Lievremont.

“I am better in the lineout, and at Castres we now have one of the best in that sector in the game,” said Diarra, who came to rugby relatively late, only signing for Montauban aged 22.

“I have also made progress when I have the ball in hand, and equally so in the rucks with the new laws.

“Apart from those areas it is up to you to judge,” he added smiling.

Diarra, who was surprised by the mental freshness of the French squad when he joined them, said his next target was to make the matchday 23.

“I am not here just to make people laugh,” he said.

“I am here to get a place in the matchday squad, I am a competitor.

“Outside of training I joke around, because one can afford to but on the pitch or even in front of the media you have to be serious!

“I'm 30 years old, the age of reason, and I am more mature. I want to bring my experience to the squad. And above all not to have any regrets.”

Diarra insisted that he had moved on from what had been a difficult last season.

He was suspended for two months for stamping on Moray Low in a European Cup match with Glasgow, although his campaign ended on a high note as Castres won the title, beating European champions Toulon in the final.

“It is true I had a tough time for a while. I had a hamstring injury then I was suspended for two months, and I also had some personal problems… Happily, the title compensated a little for all that. I try to always remain positive.”

Diarra, though, didn't believe that Castres's surprise French title win had helped in his recall.

“I don't think that changed much,” he said.

“In any case I prefer to remain under the radar. We are country folk, we are country bumpkins, we are far away from the bright lights.

“We are happy with that, we are hidden away and that is good. The less we are talked about, the better we are!”