Mature Harinordoquy for France

Imanol Harinordoquy believes adopting a more “mature” approach to the game has helped him reclaim his place in the France team.

The 26-year-old was named in French side that will take on Ireland in a crunch Six Nations Championship clash at Croke Park on Sunday.

Many will remember the back row forward for his impressive displays at the 2003 World Cup, but his stock has fallen slightly since then and he has hardly figured for his country in the past two years.

During that time, Harinordoquy feels he has developed his game and he has returned to the France fold eager, and with a completely different outlook compared to the 21-year-old who stormed on to the international scene in 2002.

“I am no longer the same player,” said the Biarritz flanker, who replaces Julien Bonnaire in the team for this weekend.

“I am perhaps more calm, more applied and less fiery. I have gained maturity. I have rediscovered my qualities and I hope that I will be better than the last time I played.”

Harinordoquy, who is of Basque heritage, was recalled to the France squad for last year’s summer Tests, and played against South Africa away.

But he missed out on a chance to add to his cap haul in the November internationals because of injury.

“I feel like I did when I had only two or three caps. I really want to do well.

“It gives me great satisfaction to be playing a very good team like Ireland, who can win the tournament.

“We are going to play in front of 80,000 spectators in surroundings that are a bit strange. The icing on the cake would be if we won the match.”

David Marty is another player returning to the France side for the historic match at Croke Park, a ground which usually hosts Gaelic sports but which is being used by Ireland’s rugby team while Lansdowne Road is being renovated.

The Perpignan centre comes in for the injured Florian Fritz and will be looking to strike up a strong partnership with Yannick Jauzion in midfield.

The duo will be coming up against the Irish centre pairing of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy, providing the former declares his fitness for the game.

Marty is full of respect for his counterparts, saying: “I don’t think Yannick Jauzion lacks anything compared to them, but O’Driscoll and D’Arcy – it’s true – are very good.

“They are quick, powerful and impressive for the whole 80 minutes. They are strong physically and mentally, but that gives us more motivation.”

Marty is often forced to be content with a place on the bench, with head coach Bernard Laporte preferring the Toulouse axis of Fritz and Jauzion.

He hardly figured in the November Tests, but is back for the Six Nations and is raring to go.

“I am happy to return to the 22,” he said.

“I was frustrated at not playing in the autumn, but there is always a spirit of competition in the squad and that is a good thing.

“I am a winner. I am glad to be back.”

Winger Christophe Dominici and prop Pieter De Villiers have been struck down with the flu, but they are expected to be fit for this weekend.

Lock Jerome Thion, who is on the bench for the game as he is nursing an ankle injury, should be back in training by the end of the week.

365 Digital

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