Veteran French centre Aurelien Rougerie says he needs to shine against England in their Six Nations clash on Sunday after two successive poor performances put his place in the side in danger.
The 31-year-old will win his 75th cap on Sunday at the Stade de France but he admits he was afraid of being dropped from the starting line-up after a rare slump in form.
The Clermont captain, part of the last three World Cup squads and a pivotal member of the side that lost 7-8 to the All Blacks in last year's final, was unimpressive in the 23-17 win over Scotland and even more so in the 17-17 draw last Sunday against Ireland.
Indeed his ambitious long pass deep inside French territory early in the first-half was intercepted by Tommy Bowe for a try and handed the initiative to the visitors.
"Yes, I was afraid of losing my place," said Rougerie, who has been outshone by his rookie Clermont centre partner Wesley Fofana, a try scorer in all three matches so far.
"I was apprehensive, as there is a lot of competition in the squad.
"We chop and change sides a lot during training, so there aren't a lot of clues as to who is favoured for the starting XV, to the extent one doesn't know whether you are going to taste something sweet or sour when the team is announced.
"For myself my ambition is to play better on the day of the match. There is no point trying to build up oneself for a better performance based on regret for what happened the week before or thinking about what one could have done better.
"All I do is try simply to put more into training so that I am in better form for the match.
"Having a pass intercepted or missing a tackle happens to anyone... I am going to do my best when I am able to."
Rougerie, who suffered an horrific injury to his throat in 2002 which affected his vocal chords and saw him lose nine kilos (leading to him being awarded damages from former England hooker Phil Greening), refuted suggestions that having to look after Fofana added to the pressure.
"No there is no extra pressure. I assume the responsibility because it is not in my character to go into hiding when I am handed such a role.
"I simply try to be relaxed and to put my partners at ease on the pitch.
"What counts is to be the most effective possible on the ground.
"My personal interest is in the team. It is vital that this French squad be a good one, and that it wins. It is up to me to do what is necessary to be part of it."
Rougerie, while part of three Grand Slam winning squads (2002/04/10) only played in all five games in 2002 and just once in 2010, said that while the draw with the Irish had dashed hopes of a Grand Slam, the title was still in play.
"There was disappointment after Sunday's game," said father-of-three Rougerie.
"But our motivation is still there to go on and win the title.
"We are still in a position to go on and win it and we have to be aware of that.
"We need to work hard, to spend time together in order to make progress, whether it be in offence or in defence."
Rougerie, scorer of 23 tries for his country, accepts that there is something unique about matches between the French and English.
"The media love this match, especially in the setting of the Six Nations," he said.
"It remains for the media the 'crunch'. For us it is always an important challenge to play against the English, who are always our best enemies.
"We are going to try and improve on what we did last Sunday so we can have the pleasure of beating them."
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