Castaignède at heart of Saracens' improvement

Treviso 17 Saracens 30
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The Independent Online

Thomas Castaignède began the most important week of his career focused not on his renaissance with France, but on Saracens' European ambitions.

It is five years since Castaignède ruptured an Achilles tendon in the warm-up before France met Australia in Marseilles. He returned for the 2002-03 season, but was discarded before the World Cup. He overcame his disappointment by concentrating on his job with his English club, who stuck by him through his convalescence.

"We should have scored more tries and gained a bonus point," he said on Saturday, "but it was a win. Now, when we go to Belfast it will be like the cup final when we play Ulster, because if we win that game we will almost certainly qualify for the final stages of the Heineken Cup."

Castaignède has been named in Bernard Laporte's squad for Saturday's Test against Australia, again in Marseilles.

"I think I will be on the bench as a utility back just as I am in Saracens," he said, "but as long as I play and I am involved with France then it does not bother me where I play.

"I am the same player I was before I was injured. Maybe there are a few grey hairs now, but I still have my pace. During the recent fitness session with the French squad I was the fastest in the speed tests, so I think if I am used properly I'll be able to show I haven't lost any of my speed."

He had a quiet match in Treviso, although his defensive qualities shone through as much as the rest of his team's. Castaignède had begun the match at full-back but moved to the centre after Ben Johnston hobbled from the field.

Saracens' Kiwi fly-half Glen Jackson directed affairs quite brilliantly. He even got over the line at the end - unfortunately knocking on before touching down. But the victory was sealed by then.

Castaignède warned: "The way we have started to play reminds of how it was when I first joined Saracens, then we also had quality players, but we have to maintain this consistency now. We have quality players to come back - Mark Bartholomeusz, Andy Farrell and Tevita Vaikona for example - I think it can only be good for Saracens."

Treviso: Tries Williams, Kingi; Conversions Smith 2; Penalty Smith. Saracens: Tries Penalty, Vyvyan 2; Conversions Jackson 3; Penalties Jackson 3.

Treviso: B Williams; M Perziano (D Dallan, 78), S Legg, M Barbini (S Picone, 78), P Calanchini; M Smith, A Troncon (capt; S Picone, 66-78); G Faliva (H Mazino, 57), F Ongaro (A Tejeda, 71), S Costanzo, E Pavanello (A Pavanello, 71), M Wentzel, S Garozzo, S Orlando (D Dal Maso, 57), D Kingi.

Saracens: T Castaignède; D Scarbrough, K Sorrell, B Johnston (BJ Russell, 19), P Bailey; G Jackson, A Dickens (M Rauluni, 78); K Yates (B Broster, 57-69), S Byrne (M Cairns, 62), C Visagie (Broster, 69), S Raiwalui, I Fullarton (K Chesney, 51), H Vyvyan (capt), T Randell (D Seymour, 52), B Skirving (BT Russell, 73).

Referee: D Changleng (Scotland).