I'm a true Bleu, says Trinh-Duc

Have France finally found their on-field leader? James Corrigan on the man who could make the difference between good and great

What's this: a Frenchman threatening to make the No 10 jersey his own? Does François Trinh-Duc have no shame? Doesn't he realise his country goes through fly-halves faster than Eric Cantona went through sardines?

The 23-year-old has started seven of the last eight Tests, which considering France had used eight other No 10s in the previous three years, makes him something of an immovable fixture. He is not of course, but tomorrow at Murrayfield, Trinh-Duc does line up once again. It is fair to say this Championship will either see him nail down the pivotal role – or see the coach, Marc Lièvremont, revert to brutal Gallic type.

"What is it about the French?" asked Jonathan Davies in the week. "It's always been their No 9 who has controlled the game. A [Pierre] Berbizier or, going a long way back, a [Jacques] Fouroux. To them the No 10 has always been like a silent partner."

The Welshman is entitled to wonder, and not just because he exerted the sort of peerless control from No 10 that certain statesmen could only dream about. This Napoleonic obsession – in which the little man always has to be general – has made them the odd one out in world rugby. And although the French are wonderfully different when it comes to the oval ball, Davies is of the opinion that the fact the silent partner is always the expendable partner has plainly worked against them.

"It has been a big problem for the French, that lack of control at 10," said the BBC summariser. "Trinh-Duc played well in New Zealand in the summer and they should carry on going with him. He is a very, very talented player and can give them continuity. You know, Lièvremont and before him [Bernard] Laporte have been chopping and changing for years now. But maybe it's time to go with the man who could take them through the next couple of Six Nations and into the World Cup."

Lièvremont seems to be in agreement. Trinh-Duc has been carrying a shoulder injury this week, but the coach is so keen for him to play he will give him as long as it takes to prove his fitness. Trinh-Duc needs the game time. In French "Jacques of all trades" tradition, the boy of Vietnamese descent began as a scrum-half and only moved outside when he became too big. Even now Montpellier switch him around the backline. As he told Le Figaro this week, it has all meant a steep learning curve.

"During my first year with France, I was intimidated," he said, reflecting on his international debut two years ago, which, interestingly enough, came in Edinburgh. "The coaches asked me to be myself as a leader. But when I was with big names like [Yannick] Jauzion, [Damien] Traille or [Cédric] Heymans, it's hard to order them around and shout 'move up'. Today I know better."

Trinh-Duc might be feeling more comfortable in the role the French call "chef d'orchestre", but not every critic is convinced. There can be no doubts about his flair – the 27-22 victory over New Zealand in June is proof aplenty – but his tactical kicking and game management remain under suspicion. His hometown club are not among the Top 14 elite and his big-match experience is thus also queried. Trinh-Duc recognises all these questions. "It's a responsible position that requires a broad range of skills," he said. "Passing, kicking, defence, vision of the game. I'm only 23 and I learn every day." It helps that he has a coach who is prepared to afford him time. "It is true Mark supports me, especially when I am criticised," he said. "He trusts me because he knows I still have room for improvement. It allows me to work in a calmer atmosphere."

Yet lose to the Scots this weekend and the atmosphere will be anything but calm. The French media adore statistics and it is widely known that since 1997 Les Bleus have always won the Championship immediately following a Lions tour. With home ties against England and Ireland, there can and will be no excuses. Failure will result in the obligatory guillotine. No prizes for guessing whose head would hit the bucket first. "We must succeed to impose our game," said Trinh-Duc. "Individually, I have to show I am progressing and that I can be the No 10 for France in 2011."

Spotlight on France

*Key men

Morgan Parra and François Trinh-Duc, talented half-backs with a heavy responsibility.

*One to watch

Mathieu Bastareaud, the problem centre with a career to rebuild.

*Can they win it?

Yes, with some luck on the injury front and consistency of selection.

Dates for the diary : Full fixtures and TV times for the Six Nations

*Today

Ireland v Italy (2.30pm, BBC1)

England v Wales (5pm, BBC1)

*Tomorrow

Scotland v France (3pm, BBC1)

*Saturday 13 February

Wales v Scotland (2pm, BBC1)

France v Ireland (4.30pm, BBC1)

*Sunday 14 February

Italy v England (1.30pm, BBC1)

*Friday 26 February

Wales v France (8pm, BBC1)

*Saturday 27 February

England v Ireland (4pm, BBC1)

Italy v Scotland (1.30pm, BBC1)

*Saturday 13 March

Ireland v Wales (2.30pm, BBC1)

Scotland v England (5pm, BBC1)

*Sunday 14 March

France v Italy (2.30pm, BBC1)

*Saturday 20 March

Wales v Italy (2.30pm, BBC1)

Ireland v Scotland (5pm, BBC1)

France v England (7.45pm, BBC1)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project