French duo pay tribute to clubs
February 2, 2007
France duo David Skrela and Sebastien Chabal are thankful for the backing shown by their respective club coaches on the eve of their returns to the international stage.
Both players have come back from spells in the international wilderness and will start for Les Bleus in their RBS 6 Nations Championship opener against Italy in Rome on Saturday.
Skrela, the Stade Francais playmaker, has had to wait five-and-a-half years to land his national team's fly-half jersey for a second time. His solitary cap came against New Zealand in June 2001.
Chabal has also had to bide his time - the last time the Sale Sharks number eight appeared for France was in the 43-8 win over Tonga in November 2005.
The pair acknowledge the inspiration behind their returns to the France fold have been their coaches at club level.
Skrela said of Stade boss Fabien Galthie: ``He forced me to change the why I play.
``I have always liked a tackle and going into rucks but Fabien told me a fly-half and a goalkicker should be thinking clearly and not try to do too many things.
``I also lost five kilos during the summer and I think I am more sharp. Fabien made me work harder physically because I tend to put on weight.''
Chabal was just as fulsome in his praise of Philippe Saint-Andre, the coach at English champions Sale who also managed the back-row forward at Bourgoin.
``I have worked with him for four-and-a-half years. It is he who made me change position (from flanker to number eight).
``Philippe gives me his full confidence and a lot of responsibility at Sale. It is largely thanks to him that I am here today.''
The duo are part of an experimental line-up named by France head coach Laporte for the match against Italy, who have picked up the dreaded wooden spoon in five of the seven years they have been involved in the tournament.
The Azzurri are no longer seen as pushovers, however, and Chabal is wary of underestimating their Latin opponents.
``It's a team who have been developing well for some years,'' the 29-year-old added.
``It's a tenacious team. The Italians fight until the end and we must be careful. But we have the means to beat them.''
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