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Bastareaud picked, Pape captain for France Six Nations squad

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Associated Press
1/11/2013 9:05:36 AM
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PARIS -- Burly centre Mathieu Bastareaud was called up to France's Six Nations squad nearly three years after making his last international appearance, and coach Philippe Saint-Andre retained Pascal Pape as captain on Friday.

Bastareaud won the last of his nine caps against England in March 2010 -- when he was part of the Grand Slam-winning team -- but was overlooked for the 2011 World Cup and again left out of the Six Nations by Saint-Andre last year.

The 24-year-old's good form for Toulon this season has earned him another chance, but he will face stiff competition for a starting place in midfield from Maxime Mermoz, Florian Fritz and Gael Fickou.

"I owe it to the team above all, to the club, to my trainers and my teammates," Bastareaud said. "Thanks to them and to the Toulon fans for all their support."

Bastareaud has worked hard on his overall fitness and has become a more committed player under the guidance of Toulon coach Bernard Laporte, a former national coach.

"He's been making huge efforts, you can see that he's got his explosiveness and his speed back," Saint-Andre said. "He's among the players with the potential to play at the very highest level. He must continue to keep improving like this."

Saint-Andre kept Pape as his captain despite the availability of flanker Thierry Dusautoir, who has been skipper 31 times in his 54 internationals.

The 32-year-old Pape led France on an interim basis while Dusautoir was recovering from injury during the autumn test series wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa, which secured a top-four seeding for the 2015 World Cup draw.

"Pascal's in top form, he played very well in the autumn tests and he was well received as captain," Saint-Andre said. "But this problem is a luxury to have."

Saint-Andre thinks it's important that Dusautoir "takes all the time he needs to come back from his injury and thinks of himself before thinking of the squad."

Fullback Maxime Medard, who injured his knee in last year's tournament win against Scotland, was left out despite a promising comeback from injury this season with Toulouse.

"Of course we will continue to look at Max, but we know it takes time to come back from the injury he had," Saint-Andre said.

The 22-year-old Brice Dulin is likely to be France's first-choice fullback, with the 21-year-old Jean-Marcellin Buttin as his backup.

"You can really sense that there's a new generation that's starting to come through," Saint-Andre said.

France begins its campaign away to Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on Feb. 3 and then hosts Wales at Stade de France on Feb. 9. It then plays England and Ireland away before facing Scotland at home on March 16.

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France:

Forwards: Vincent Debaty, Thomas Domingo, Yannick Forestier, Benjamin Kayser, Guilhem Guirado, Dimitri Szarzewski, David Attoub, Luc Ducalcon, Nicolas Mas, Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape (captain), Jocelino Suta, Romain Taofifenua, Damien Chouly, Thierry Dusautoir, Wenceslas Lauret, Yannick Nyanga, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Louis Picamoles. Backs: Maxime Machenaud, Morgan Parra, Frederic Michalak, Francois Trinh-Duc, Mathieu Bastareaud, Jean-Marcel Buttin, Vincent Clerc, Brice Dulin, Benjamin Fall, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Florian Fritz, Yoann Huget, Maxime Mermoz.

Pascal Pape (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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