Bastareaud's rocky start in the USA
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Mathieu Bastareaud may have played his last game of Major League Rugby (MLR) following the cancellation of the American competition because of the spread of the coronavirus.
What’s more, the mercurial Bastareaud was apparently clashing with both the coach and captain in his new MLR team.
The hulking centre signed for Rugby United New York (RUNY) but endured middling form on the pitch on arrival in the Big Apple. Last week the MLR cancelled the season entirely, so Bastareaud could have already have played his last game in the fledgeling league.
“He is your typical Frenchman,” former England fullback Ben Foden told RugbyPass on ‘The Lockdown’. “When things aren’t going well he moans a lot, he throws his arms a lot and things like that.”
“He had run-ins with Greg [McWilliams] our coach and Butch [Dylan Fawsitt] our captain. Bastareaud has played the game for a long time, he’s played at the highest level, gone to World Cups, captained France; obviously he has the calibre.
“So Butch sees this guy come in and thinks he’s going to reinvent the wheel, thinks he going to be a major force for us.
“Then in training he’s dropping the ball onto the foot, chipping it through, doing the typical French flair thing and Butch is like ‘What’s this guy doing? He’s meant to be a straight trucking 12 or 13’. They just clashed.”
Foden says the cancellation of the league was terrible timing for ‘Basta’.
“It’s a shame the season is finished because Bastareaud is really growing into his role. It takes a while to settle into America rugby as well.
“Bastareaud was never the type of player who was going to be making 40 yard breaks. What he was going to do was make three guys tackle him, offload it and suck in three defenders and make space for more of us.”
The French star started at centre for his new club but was quickly moved to No.8, where he seemed to find his groove.
“He moved to No.8 and we were starting to use him quite well. You could see in the last two or three games he had come on in leaps and bounds, because he was getting more and more involved in the game.
“Greg and Butch said they didn’t care what he was doing on the training field as long as he brought it on the weekend, which he had started to do.
“It’s disappointing for him as I think he’s only doing the one year.”
The 130kg centre’s first game may also have been a bit of an eye-opener for him according to Foden.
“After the first game in Vegas he was not happy. He was on to his agent on the phone and Lyon were saying they want him back. We got spanked in the game by a new franchise, New England [Free Jacks], who are our local rivals.”
“The pitch was super hard. It was like a wind-tunnel. It was so windy. The game was ruined by the weather and where it was played. You could see Bastareaud thinking, ‘I’m not sticking around to play here’. There was like one man and his dog [watching].”
However, things have improved, not least after Foden organised a night out in Vegas for the team.
“I organised a mass night out in Vegas. Like 24 of us all went out to a massive table in a big night club in Vegas and just cut loose, which I think perked him up a little bit. He needed it.
“I think he likes that side of it. The social side of it and going out with the boys. I think he was missing his family as well, as his family weren’t out there.”
‘Basta’ seems happier now and is living in New York with his wife and child in a ‘really nice flat’ in the city.
Along with Ma’a Nonu and Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira, the Frenchman is the biggest signing in the league’s history. Sadly for all involved, the coronavirus may have robbed us of knowing how good he could have been, had the season not been canned.
By Ian Cameron, @RugbyPass