It's dangerous to say that there is an element of deception about French captain Mathieu Bastareaud.

That much Kiwis feel they already know given the events of 2009 when the 21-year-old as he was then, sparked a diplomatic exchange of apologies that reached all the way to the highest seat of both New Zealand's and France's respective Governments.

He stuffed up back then did Basteraud. He told a whopping lie about how he came to have a black eye the morning after the French had played the All Blacks in Wellington.

First he said he was beaten up by local hoons sparking John Key– ever wary of the looming World Cup New Zealand would soon host – to apologise to his French equivalent.


When it turned out that Bastareaud had actually fallen out of bed drunk – or more likely had been thumped by one of his own team-mates for being out so late and getting so drunk – the French Prime Minister was having to say sorry for wasting Police time.

It was an extraordinary business and back in the capital for the first time since it happened, Bastareaud was quite happy to say that he's turned his life around.

He's returned as not only the captain of his country, but as a source of inspiration to his teammates. The man he was then is not the man he is now which is why when he asked about how he felt about being back at the scene of the crime as it were, he replied

"Nothing. It was nine years ago. For me it is the past. Not for you journalists. My life continued after that so for me it is a good place."

And this is where the deception lies with Bastareaud – nine years ago he was a troubled young man, now he's composed and articulate, capable of speaking in two languages and willing to confront all his demons head on.

He's shown incredible mental strength and resilience to bounce back the way he has.

To be here in New Zealand as the captain of his country is an extraordinary turn of events and he is a man to be celebrated and admired for that. Redemption is a powerful story and he has clearly redeemed himself.

He also has to be admired for being a considerably better player than his physique suggests he should be. Again…more deception.


At 128kg, he's a phenomenal size for a midfielder and yet he manages to use that almost exclusively as a weapon and is rarely exposed as a liability.

The big man looks like he could be stripped defensively on the outside and yet he was the man who packed the best defensive punch of all four midfielders on view at Eden Park.

He was a threat and the All Blacks treated him that way.

Bastareaud is not what he initially seems and hopefully he'll be given a warm welcome in Wellington on Saturday night by the home crowd for he has forgiven himself and deserves for everyone else to do the same.

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