Modest Michalak taking praise with a pinch of salt

French playmaker Frederic Michalak has said he is taking all the praise being heaped on him for his form in the autumn internationals with a pinch of salt and that his focus is fully on Saturday’s game against Samoa.

The 30-year-old Toulon half-back is enjoying a second lease of life in the France XV, 11 years after he made his debut against South Africa at a time when he was being billed as a major star of the future. It did not quite work out that way.

Michalak has come and gone in the French lineup over the last few years, winning 58 caps, but opting to spend two spells playing club rugby in South Africa in a bid to hone his skills in a different environment.

Largely ignored under Marc Lievremont and left out of his 2011 World Cup squad, Michalak’s fortunes have suddenly improved under new coach Philippe Saint-Andre despite his inability to nail down a regular start at Toulon where he is in competition with English star Jonny Wilkinson.

Michalak was named at fly-half for the autumn test series opener against Australia and was outstanding in an impressive 33-6 French win and he was given top marks again last Saturday as he marshalled Les Bleus to a 24-13 win over Argentina.

L’Equipe newspaper subsequently led their front page on Tuesday with a picture of Michalak saying that “the former prodigal son of French rugby has installed himself as the new boss of the French team.”

Asked what he made of all the sudden attention after his time in the international wilderness Michalak replied: “It’s just that when you are in the French team, you are always in the spotlight.

“Success comes from the team. If there are individuals who are singled out, it is above all else, due to the collective efforts of everyone.

“To be honest it’s not what occupies me at the moment and I try not to pay too much attention to it all.

“There are young players who are coming through at the moment and it should be them that the spotlight is on. I have had my time.”

The wins over Australia and Argentina have all but ensured that France will be among the top four seeded teams for next month’s 2015 World Cup draw, with the tournament set to be hosted in England, but Michalak says that should not be used as an excuse for taking the foot off the pedal against Samoa.

The South Pacific islanders have already taken the scalp of Six Nations champions Wales this month and they have the chance of moving up into the second pot of seeds should they defeat France.

“They have a fine team with very physical players who take the challenge to you in a very aggressive way,” he said of Samoa.

“They proved just how good they are against Wales last week, and that comes as no surprise to me. Most of their players play in top teams and we know them well.

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