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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 05:46 GMT 06:46 UK
English tormentor
By Matt Majendie

Dimitri Yachvili
Yachvili has regularly broken English hearts in recent seasons
For a self-confessed anglophile, Dimitri Yachvili has performed his fair share of English torture in recent seasons.

France's scrum-half, formerly of Premiership side Gloucester, has been the architect-in-chief of a hat-trick of Six Nations wins over England, as well as accounting for the Heineken Cup exits of Leicester, Wasps, Saracens and Sale in the last year.

On Saturday, the 25-year-old will bid to add Bath to the scrapheap in their European semi-final at Anoeta Stadium.

And more disturbingly for Brian Ashton's men, he is saving additional French venom for the West Country outfit.

He told BBC Sport: "I remember playing for Gloucester, the Bath game was always the big one - we loved to hate them.

"And on Saturday I want to win for me, for the team, for France and, of course, for Gloucester. My friends there would like to see the match end with Bath frowns."

Yachvili will be one of the main targets for Bath's hit men, with the simple instructions from Ashton that silencing him means silencing much of Biarritz's creativity.

One prime example of Yachvili's skills was his solo try in the 24-21 win over England in 2004.

They'll expect us to win, I expect us to win and I'd rather be playing at home than in Bath
Dimitri Yachvili
But indiscipline, perhaps more than defensive weaknesses, will be leapt on by Yachvili.

He kicked a further 14 points in that game, scored all 18 of France's points in defeating the English last year and added another 16 in the 31-6 drubbing in March.

"What can I say, I like playing against English sides," said Yachvili. "I get very excited playing against English teams but that won't matter at the weekend.

"It doesn't matter if our opposition was English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh or even French.

"What matters is that we've never been to a Heineken Cup final and have our best chance to do that. That, rather than beating the English, will be the motivation."

The last three years might well have been a lot less painful for England rugby had Yachvili opted to play in Georgia's national colours like his brother Gregoire.

His Georgian grandfather Charles was taken captive while fighting the Red Army in the siege of Leningrad in the Second World War.

But he escaped from his prisoner of war camp and travelled to France where he joined the resistance.

He stayed there after the war, marrying a Brive woman, who gave birth to their son Michel, who in turn went on to win 19 caps at hooker for France from 1968.

Yachvili's father remains a big influence over his game - "my father gives me advice every day, most of it good!" - and the pair have already discussed Saturday's match.

DMITIRI YACHVILI FACTFILE
Born: 19 September 1980
Position: Scrum-half
Club: Biarritz
Test caps: 27
Test debut: 23 November 2002
Yachvili on Bath: "They're a handful. They beat Leicester in Leicester and there's every chance they could do the same against us"
Yachvili on life in England: "I learnt a lot there, had a lot of responsibilities and owe the English a lot"
Yachvili on the Heineken Cup: "Aside from the World Cup, there's nothing bigger for me. It would mean everyting to me to make that final."
And the pair know the scrum-half's past makes him the best-equipped player in Biarritz's line-up to dash English dreams in the tournament for another year.

"My background playing for Gloucester will help," Yachvili admitted. "I know the English game and know what's needed - you have to be fit and tough - those are the two keys.

"They've got a great front five, a dominant line-out in Danny Grewcock and Steve Borthwick, and a big guy at number eight (Isaac Fea'unati).

"Then there's Barkley and that fast winger of theirs, whose name I forget. They're a complete team, they're good at every position and they'll be hard to beat."

Yachvili concedes the 32,000-strong crowd, which roared them to victory in their quarter-final against Sale, will once again act as the "16th man".

"But with that crowd comes the pressure," he added. "They'll expect us to win, I expect us to win and I'd rather be playing at home than in Bath.

"Sadly, any team can win away from home - Bath did it at Leicester and will believe they can do it in Biarritz. Thankfully, I believe differently."

Biarritz have experienced heartache in the final four for the last two years - in 2004 they were narrowly beaten by Toulouse and last year missed out by three points to Stade Francais.

But Yachvili warned: "We're bored of not making the final but know what's needed. We need to score quickly, open the gaps, keep the pressure on and most of all respect Bath."




SEE ALSO
Biarritz 11-6 Sale
02 Apr 06 |  European Club
Robinson blames 'small errors'
03 Apr 06 |  European Club


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