‘Posolo Tuilagi is another monster’

For his second show, former France powerhouse Mathieu Bastareaud invited former Scotland and Top 14 flanker Johnnie Beattie to the beach in Toulon.

Beattie, who picked up 38 Test caps between 2006 and 2015, speaks perfect French, having spent most of his career with French clubs Montpellier (2012-2014), Castres (2014-2016) and Aviron Bayonnais (2016-2019).

Suffice to say, he knows French rugby very well and while he doesn’t deny his origins – he will naturally support Scotland when they host France at Murrayfield on Saturday, February 10 – he’s full of insight and goodwill when it comes to French rugby.

He too felt the pain when Les Blues experienced its heaviest ever defeat against Ireland in Marseille in the opening round of the 2024 Six Nations.

“I’m a bit scared for the Scots this weekend,” he told Bastareaud on the latest episode of the French language Basta Show.

“We saw a team (France) at the end of a cycle, with a lot of changes, that lost a lot of the things it usually does without thinking – especially in the lineout – and found itself in a tough spot.

“There are mental and physical after-effects. It leaves its mark.

“There was also the context with Ireland: no change, the big team, the staff that hasn’t changed, the federation that manages the players – so that they are not playing all the time. Here in France, the guys have cranked out, since the World Cup, about fifteen games!

“It was sad to see them like that. But we know full well with the French team… The guys are very proud. A little flick and they’re going to rebel, they’re going to wake up. I’m a bit scared for the Scots this weekend… ”

France got off to a bad start

Opponents for many years – Bastareaud and Beattie have never played in the same team – the two players agree on one point: France got off to a bad start from the off.

“It’s true that from the beginning of the game, we felt that it was going to be really, very, very difficult,” says Bastareaud.

“After that, it’s true that there was the red card that put us down to 14 men, which punished us. But for me, at least, I had the feeling that even with 15 men, it’s not certain that we would have won that match.

“Not easily,” adds Beattie. “But still, you have the means, the players, with the physical and technical ability to win this kind of game.”

The post-France-Ireland match focused at the beginning of the week on two “excuses” (apart from Willemse’s red card): the absence of captain Antoine Dupont and the lack of control of his designated replacement at scrum-half, Maxime Lucu.

For Lucu, it was “mission impossible”

“I think you can put Toto (Antoine Dupont, editor’s note), Maxime Lucu, (Nolann) Le Garrec or (Dimitri) Yachvili on the pitch, you don’t change much in this match. We lose six or seven balls in the lineout, we’re constantly going backwards either in defence or in attack. It’s not Antoine. You can’t say to Antoine ‘unblock the situation’, it’s not possible,” says John Beattie.

“When I see Maxime at the moment, who plays at a very high level for Bordeaux every week, for him it was his chance to be in the starting line-up… But when you give Maxime and Jalibert such [poor] quality ball… The ball they were given, it’s not possible. We’re not on top, a scrum that doesn’t advance, lineouts lost… You’re never going forwards so it’s super hard.

“For him, all the ball is slow, the conditions are terrible… It’s an almost impossible mission. We’ve all had games like that.

“My heart aches for him because I think he’s a competitor with great qualities. I love this guy. I was disappointed for him but also for others like Willemse. The fact that he missed this World Cup with an injury; Now he comes back, he wants to show himself, to bring this physical side that he has, two impacts and that’s it: the team is down to 14 men for 70 minutes.

“The team will bounce back against the Scots with 15 guys, it’s going to be a different situation, a different game.”

The Confirmation of the King

Another point of agreement between the two is what they think of Posolo Tuilagi. The 19-year-old second-row (6 months and 5 days) earned his first international cap through a twist of fate. An injury to Romain Taofifenua which put him on the bench and then Paul Willemse’s red card led to this USAP colossus (1.92 m, 145 kg) entering the fray.

“One person’s misfortune is another man’s fortune,” teases Bastareaud.

“It made me happy because I love this type of player. They’re the players who, as soon as they have the ball, they knock down three or four guys, they move forward… Even if I think he is not yet the finished article – for the France team, for playing internationally – it is only through playing in games like this that we learn. I think we’re seeing the phenomenon of the next few years, that’s for sure.”

His father, who had been an international for Samoa (10 caps between 2002 and 2009) and also a player for USAP (2007-2015), was present in the stands at the Stade Velodrome to see the next generation.

“Posolo comes from a family with Manu who plays for the English, Alesana, Freddie, his dad Henry, who was scary,” Beattie says.

“He’s got the physical qualities. He’s still raw; He is only 19 years old. He’s a diamond in the rough, he’s going to grow, into another monster. And of course we can count on him for the future. It’s a phenomenon, plain and simple.

“But again, we can’t put a lot of pressure on him. That was an experience. He was thrown in at the deep end at the stadium in front of 60,000 people, with no experience. Now he’s going to move forward, he’s going to progress and he’s certainly going to bring something for the years to come.”

You can watch the full Basta Show below, and weekly via the RugbyPass France Youtube channel


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