JEAN-BAPTISTE ELISSALDE is out of France’s RBS Six Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield – and is likely to miss Saturday’s week crunch clash with Ireland.
His place for Sunday’s Murrayfield clash goes to Toulouse team-mate Frederic Michalak. It is the latest in a long line of injury problems for Les Bleus, who already had to make do without Biarritz trio Fabien Barcella, Damien Traille and Dimitri Yachvili before Sebastien Chabal and Romain Millo-Chluski were ruled out.
It is also a huge blow for Elissalde who, having been named as a replacement, was on the verge of making his first appearance for France since 2008 before pulling up with a calf injury.
“Wednesday at training I felt a pain inside my calf which didn’t seem to be too acute to me,” said Elissalde. “I even thought it might be a spasm. This morning, when I got up, it was hard for me to move my foot, to walk.”
Elissalde also revealed he is unlikely to be fit in time for France’s second game against Ireland.
However Scotland’s Chris Cusiter has told the team’s Glasgow contingent that they will still need to better their Magners League-topping form to beat the French.
Scotland captain Cusiter was one of nine Warriors players selected by Andy Robinson for his first championship game in charge, reflecting the club’s blistering start to the domestic season.
But although Cusiter believes “familiarity” will be an asset this weekend, he insisted that alone would not be enough to secure victory.
“There’s a level of familiarity about the Glasgow guys; we’ve been playing well all season. But the point is, this is the Six Nations and it’s a step up. From one to 22, we have to step up our game.”
Cusiter is also hoping some inside knowledge pays off this weekend, with the 27-year-old one of three of Robinson’s 22 to have played in France.
“I really enjoy playing against French sides and France in particular,” said Cusiter, who spent two years at Perpignan. “They play some of the best rugby in the world and I think, having played out there, I maybe understand a bit more about their mentality.”
Despite acknowledging the importance of a winning start, Cusiter was unwilling to reflect on its consequences.
“It would be huge but that’s a long way away,” he said. “We’ve got to concentrate on how we’re going to get there. We have to go out and execute and that’s all down to us, to the players and the guys coming off the bench. The pressure’s on, as it always is, but we’re excited about the challenge and we’re going to enjoy it.”
Cusiter, who will earn his 48th cap, goes head to head with 21-year-old Clermont Auvergne starlet Morgan Parra.
“I played against him a couple of times in the French championship over the last couple of years,” said Cusiter.
“He’s a young hope. But obviously he’s the man in possession and a very, very accomplished player for his age. He controls the forwards as if he was 30 years old.”
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