x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

France's 'Little Kelleher' ready for Wallaby Test

Sebastien Tillous-Borde, France's new scrum-half is stocky and strong. His traits have already been likened to the former All Black, Byron Kelleher.

Sebastien Tillous-Borde is not the classic scrum-half in shape or style, but he is equally as effective.
Sebastien Tillous-Borde is not the classic scrum-half in shape or style, but he is equally as effective.

MARCOUSSIS, FRANCE // Sebastien Tillous-Borde, France's new scrum-half, is only 23 but he has already earned the nickname 'Little Byron Kelleher' through his powerful play and build reminiscent of the former All Black. The Castres player stands 1.75 metres tall and weighs in at 93 kilos, one centimetre and two kilos less than Kelleher, who now plays club rugby in France with Toulouse. "Such a nickname is a compliment because I regard Kelleher as the best scrum-half in the world," Tillous-Borde said. "I suppose it comes from my stature.

"I hope it also comes from my play. I'm different from the other French scrum-halves. I like to use my build, it makes things easier to keep the team moving forward when you get bad possession." Born in a farming family at the foothills of the Pyrenees and rugby-educated in Monein and Oloron, Tillous-Borde was spotted by Biarritz in 2004. His first moment of glory came in 2006 when he helped France's under 21 team managed by Marc Lievremont, now France head coach, to win the World Cup.

A year later, Tillous-Borde left Biarritz for Castres, tired of staying in the shadow of Dimitri Yachvili and a year later Lievremont named him in his squad, deprived of the best players in the Top 14 national championship, for the tour of Australia. The French suffered two heavy defeats but Tillous-Borde was one of the players who stood up to the Wallabies. Lievremont initially handed starts for the November Tests to Jean-Baptiste Elissalde with Morgan Parra as his understudy but Tillous-Borde had fortune on his side.

After Parra broke his finger in the dying minutes of the first Test against Argentina, Tillous-Borde was recalled to the squad and when Napolioni Nalaga knocked out Elissalde with a late, high tackle in the Pacific Islanders Test last weekend, Lievremont sent him on. "It's true, I was a bit lucky to get there but I did my best when they gave me the keys and I think that at the end it was a good performance," he said.

Lievremont agreed. "Sebastien took over the role quite well, in a manner that suits him well, generous but sometimes a bit excessive," the French coach said. "He certainly needs to be a bit more precise. He has to refine his technique and tactical choices but he is a very promising young player." The France coach decided to let Elissalde recover and rewarded Tillous-Borde with a start against Australia.

"I have been lucky against the Australians. I beat them in the semi-final of the under 21 World Cup and even if we got two good drubbings I enjoyed the two games last June," the scrum-half said. "I just hope the Wallabies will bring me luck again." *Reuters