Traille to prove his doubters wrong

Sunday’s Heineken Cup game against Northampton gives the Biarritz centre Damien Traille the perfect opportunity to prove the doubters – and France coach Bernard Laporte – wrong.

This season hasn’t really gone to plan for Traille. You might imagine that at this stage of the year, a 50-times capped international might expect to be glancing toward the business end of the season with one eye on playoffs and finals and another nervously at their physio’s phone number.

That’s not been a problem for Traille, who lined up in his first match in two months last weekend against Albi.

Its been a difficult time for him sitting on the sidelines and watching his team-mates lift another Six Nations title but he’s fresh, fighting fit and sees the match against Northampton as the opportunity to get his season – and his Rugby World Cup hopes – back on track.

“I can’t wait for it,” said the 27-year-old who will play in his familiar midfield role on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a really tough match but it always is at this level of the competition.”

A single cameo from the bench against Scotland is hardly just rewards for a player who, before the Six Nations was one of the first names on Bernard Laporte’s team sheet.

The emergence of Lionel Beauxis and the solid form of David Skrela have meant that France’s problems at fly-half no longer seem as acute.

Just as well perhaps, because if we learned anything from his appearances there against the All Blacks in the November Test series, it is that Traille is no fly-half.

“Of course, if you are asked by your country to play at fly-half, then you will play there,” Traille added.

“I don’t get much opportunity to play at fly-half to be honest but be it centre or at number 10, I’ll be happy to play anywhere.”

Biarritz’ season has mirrored Traille’s in certain respects. Handicapped by injuries in the early stages of the season, they’ve recovered some ground recently in the Top 14 but there is a general feeling amongst the media in France that Biarritz have lost a little of their zip this season.

Granted, their Heineken Cup form has been impressive, scoring a record 29 points in the pool stages but Traille admits that, like his own form, we have yet to see the best of Biarritz Olympique this season.

A major advantage however is a home draw and in Stadio Anoeta, Biarritz take possession of one of the most beautiful stadiums in Europe. The home of football side Real Sociedad has become something of a good luck charm in recent years and the players, it seems, love playing there.

“One of the key objectives at the beginning of the season was to get a home quarter final and return to San Sebastian, this will be our third year in a row of going there,” Traille said.

“Being part of a festival atmosphere which involves the whole of the Pays Basque, for the public, and for us, this is another great opportunity to share this moment with the whole of the Pays Basque.

“We have already been very lucky to get the home quarter-final and it has given our campaign a massive boost.

“And we know that if we manage to get the better of Northampton that we’ll be returning to Anoeta.”

There is no doubting however, that the question mark which currently dangles over the Heineken Cup is something that bothers Traille.

Biarritz cling limpet-like to this tournament, its importance to the town gradually becoming more and more important. And after last year’s devastating loss to Munster, they seem more focused than ever on becoming champions, even if it means they will not be able to defend it the following season.

“It’s true that we have too many matches scheduled next season to be playing at our maximum throughout.

“I am aware that the LNR plans to boycott the Heineken Cup next year but perhaps this will be the catalyst to get things moving,” he said.

“The difficu

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