Chabal to anchor French scrum


MARCOUSSIS, November 17- French sporting icon Sebastien Chabal gets what could be his last chance to prove he is an international No8 on Saturday against Argentina and he is determined to seize it with both hands.

The 32-year-old affectionately known as the ‘Caveman’ will make his 57th test appearance but only ninth in the position – his first since the summer of 2007 – which he has made his own at club level first for English side Sale and then at Racing-Metro.

Chabal, who replaces Imanol Harinordoquy in the position after the latter disappointed in the win over Fiji last Saturday, said that there was no question it was his preferred position.

"No8 is the post that I prefer," said Chabal, who filled that role for Sale from 2004-09 and at Racing-Metro since he joined them.

"It gives me more freedom on the pitch, more latitude in the attacking phases notably with the amount of space, the extra time I have to attack."

Chabal, who became a cult hero and sparked ‘Chabalmania’ when playing as No8 he produced two earth shattering tackles in successive tests in New Zealand on Ali Williams and Chris Masoe, said that thanks to former France and Italy coach Pierre Berbizier, his manager at Racing-Metro, he had evolved as a player.

"It is the vision that Pierre (Berbizier) has given me of the game that I am able to put into practice, with and for my team-mates, which gives the impression that I am more motivated," said Chabal, who will face a stiff test against an always formidable Pumas pack.

"It is true that before I was a bit one dimensional: take the ball and attack the line.

"These days, Pierre has asked me to look for options, to pass the ball, to act as a decoy rather than systematically doing the same thing. By creating uncertainty, my range is enriched," added Chabal.

Chabal, whose caveman nickname evolves from his long hair and unkempt beard, is not bitter that he has been reduced to sparing appearances at No8 at international level and mainly played in the engine room of the second row largely alongside Racing-Metro team-mate and former national captain Lionel Nallet.

"There is no sense of regret because playing in the second row has allowed me to stay in the squad," he said.

"And that, is very important for my confidence, continuity and to get to the World Cup."

Chabal still has much to prove he can play at this exalted level in the position to head coach Marc Lievremont – who criticised his performance after he replaced Harinordoquy in the second-half of the Fiji match.

However, scrum coach Didier Retiere reiterated that Lievremont hadn’t lost faith in him finally replicating his club form in the national strip and he had been told before the summer tour of South Africa and Argentina – which he ended up missing – that he could be deployed in the No8 role.

"The fact he (Chabal) changed club, from Sale to Racing, has perhaps provoked him to prepare for matches a little differently," said Retiere.

"He is making the most of his qualities (…) he has enlarged his workrate and the continuity of his game.

"He has gone from being an ‘impact player’ to one who can play 80 minutes for his club."