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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January, 2005, 13:35 GMT
Shooting Stars: Dimitri Yachvili (France)
Mathew Tait Dimitri Yachvili Marcus Horan Sergio Parisse Chris Cusiter Gavin Henson Dimitri Yachvili

By Matt Majendie

Dimitri Yachvili has long been France's understudy at number nine but is fixing his eyes on a starring role this season.

Previously castigated for his wayward distribution, he spent his early international career in the shadow of former captain Fabien Galthie, and latterly Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.

Now it is Pierre Mignoni who blocks his path to a starting spot.

Last season's Six Nations proved something of a turning point for the Biarritz scrum-half, who was brought into the French starting line-up when Elissalde got injured.

He silenced the crowd in style as France romped to a Grand Slam against world champions England in the final game, scoring a try amid a personal haul of 19 points.

I learnt a lot at Gloucester - it allowed me to judge my potential
Dimitri Yachvili
Much to England's chagrin, Yachvili might never have played for the French, instead opting to stick with the Georgian national team.

His route into a French team oozing with different nationalities is more curious than most.

His grandfather Charles was taken captive while fighting for 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.

Michel went on to play for France at hooker from 1968, winning 19 caps before becoming the forwards coach at Brive.

DIMITRI YACHVILI FACTFILE
Dimitri Yachvili
Born: 19 September 1980
Position: Scrum-half
Club: Biarritz
Test caps: 14
Test points: 82 (one try)
Six Nations appearances: 10
His brother Gregoire plied his trade with the Georgian national team at the World Cup
And he remains his son's most important role model. "Every day my father gives me advice - most of it good!" Dimitri said.

In 2001, the then France under-21 captain was brought to English Premiership side Gloucester for a season by Philippe Saint-Andre.

It was there he caught people's attention, regularly edging England scrum-half Andy Gomarsall for the number nine jersey.

But after one season, Biarritz came calling and Yachvili returned home in a bid to kick-start his Test ambitions.

He still has find memories of his time in the West Country though. "I learnt a lot there, I had a lot of responsibilities and it allowed me to judge my potential," he noted.

Back in France, he was at one moment deemed brilliant, the next a liability, as his desire to catapult himself into the national team sometimes made for inconsistent form.

His time in the limelight, though, finally came courtesy of Elissalde's torn thigh muscle.

He grasped the opportunity in style, single-handedly torturing England in a memorable display in Paris.

And with Elissalde sidelined for the Six Nations it looked as if Yachvili was set to go from something of a weak link to the glue at the heart of the French team.

However, Bernard Laporte's decision to opt for Mignoni has left Yachvili back on the bench - for the time being.

Do not expect this Gallic pass master, who also kicks with aplomb, to stay on the sidelines for long. He enjoys being centre stage and surely will be again before too long.




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