Versatile Traille comes full circle

FOR us mere mortals, the honour of representing your country is one of the greatest achievements that can be bestowed in life.

How many of us, as youngsters, have had dreams of scoring a winning try or goal in a World Cup final, only to be faced with the depressing reality that we would have to live itvicariously through someone else? It’s the reason why supporters sometimes get miffed when they hear players grumbling about their lot in life.

France’s Damien Traille is not one to complain but it would anunderstatement to say he’s happy to be back in his chosen role of inside centre for tomorrow’s match at the AvivaStadium.

“Yes, I’m happy that I might be able to make the position my own again,” admits the 31-year-old.

“When I saw the squad at the start of Six Nations I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to play there again as four centres were picked but that’s the thing about sport — you never know what’s around the corner.”

As it happens, it was an injury to Perpignan’s Maxime Mermoz that opened the door for Traille, whostarted at full back in the Scotland game and at fly-half in that catastrophic 16-59 defeat to the Wallabies in November.

He says his experience in rugby has told him to never rule out the unexpected — a feeling you’d imagine, is shared by all of France when it comes to watching the national team.

“I was lucky with Max’s (Mermoz) injury,” confesses Traille. “I’m sad for him and I know what I’m talking about having been there myself. It’s been a while since I played there for France. I played at 10 against Australia, full-back against Scotland and 20 or 21 against Ireland last year. Finally I’m back at 12, the wheel has come full circle!”

For all the tinkering and upheaval during the Marc Lièvremont era, Traille has remained a fixture in the France side, just as he had been under Bernard Laporte.

First capped in 2001 against South Africa, Traille quickly made the position his own while 13’s came and went. Tony Marsh, Xavier Garbajosa were partners in the early years while Yannick Jauzion came to prominence as the decade rolled on. Blessed with vision, strong defence and a howitzer of a right boot, Lièvremont saw Traille as a sort of Mr Dependable, a pillar that could be chucked anywhere in an ever-changing back-line.

That was, until last November against Australia. Having just returned from a six-month period out with a fractured arm, Traille was thrown in at fly-half for the Autumn series.

“Your confidence improves where your form is there. In November, I wasn’t ready physically and it was difficult to stay on top of everything. Then add in the fact that I was playing at fly-half and still wasn’t right physically made it even tougher. With five months of additional competition, it’s a lot easier to express yourself and take chances.”

Traille insists he’s not bitter about having been moved around over the last few years. Playing for France is all that matters, he declares.

“It would be a shame to moan about it. I’ve the chance to play for France and that gives me great confidence. It feels like my first cap again. I still have the desire to have fun and win especially.”

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