October 1, 2019 / 10:16 AM / 20 days ago

Don't call me 'big brother', says France enforcer Picamoles

FUKUOKA, Japan (Reuters) - At 33, Louis Picamoles will be the oldest player wearing a blue jersey when France take on the United States in Wednesday’s World Cup clash in Fukuoka but the back row enforcer does not want to be seen as “big brother” to his younger team mates.

FILE PHOTO: France's Louis Picamoles visits at Fuji Sengen Shrine with his team members after the Team Welcome Ceremony ahead of the start of the Rugby World Cup in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi prefecture, Japan September 15, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Picamoles will captain callow France for the first time in his career of 80 tests, having come off the bench to play a key role in the nerve-jangling win over Argentina last week.

Leading from the front while regular captain Guilhem Guirado starts on the bench, Picamoles felt humbled by the honour but did not see himself changing much in his approach to dealing with the youngest team at the World Cup during the Pool C clash.

“Yes, I’m very proud that I am to lead the team tomorrow, however, I’ve become very familiar with the team so nothing changes,” he told reporters after the captain’s run at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium on Tuesday.

“I don’t regard myself as being a big brother, I just want to give everything I have to the team.

“We are a strong group, there is a good mixture of young players and veterans, I don’t really care about the generation gap. I have been paying attention to that but I don’t think it’s a big problem.”

While often proving an inspiration with his wrecking ball ways on field, Picamoles has not always been seen as leadership material at the highest level despite captaining Montpellier in the French Top 14.

He was once dropped by former France coach Philippe Saint-Andre in the 2014 Six Nations after mockingly applauding referee Alain Rolland when given a yellow card during a loss to Wales.

The following year he drew yellow during France’s 62-13 humiliation at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup in England for a brush with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

The incident produced one of World Cup rugby’s classic lines when referee Nigel Owens reviewed the incident and said: “I don’t see a punch, I just see a fist in the face.”

Picamoles’s pre-match media conference on Tuesday delivered no sparkling moments of oratory but plenty of boilerplate pledges involving the realisation of “collective” goals.

As one of the 2011 World Cup squad that rebelled against coach Marc Lievremont in New Zealand before regrouping and pushing the All Blacks all the way in the final, Picamoles has unique insight into the need for team harmony.

“Our mindset has been changing in a good direction, we have a very good atmosphere and we are a very good team collectively,” he said.

“The United States are a team under construction, but they have quality. For us, this is the next step to take.”

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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