Rugby-Picamoles could restore French power factor

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By Julien Pretot PARIS, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Louis Picamoles looked set to play second fiddle at the rugby World Cup, but the Toulouse number eight's impressive return to form suggests he will have a huge impact on France's game. The powerful back row forward's chances of even making the squad had looked slim after a lung infection sidelined him for four months last summer and a thigh injury kept him out of the Six Nations. Yet Paris-born Picamoles, who started his career at Montpellier before joining Toulouse in 2009, fought his way back into the reckoning and played his first international since June last year in France's 19-14 defeat against England at Twickenham on Aug. 15. Though seemingly behind Damien Chouly and Loann Goujon in coach Philippe Saint-Andre's pecking order, Picamole was then instrumental in the 25-20 victory in the second of Les Bleus' World Cup warm-up games against England. "I would have loved to have him with me during my two stints with Les Bleus," former France coach Bernard Laporte said. "Players who can gain ground and hurt (the opposition) at impact have been too rare in the France team." Forwards coach Yannick Bru believes that Picamoles, whose raw power could be what the French back row has been missing of late, can be a decisive factor at the World Cup. "It is certain that Louis is among the players who have superpowers," he said. Picamoles, meanwhile, is keeping a low profile. "I have been trying to do what was necessary to be a force to be reckoned with and it has paid off," said the number eight, who weighs in at 115 kg (253 lbs). "I wanted to get back to fitness without losing weight. In 2011 I had tried but I had lost too much muscle." With recent illness and injury woes apparently behind him, Picamoles' renowned physicality should lie in wait for Pool D opponents Canada, Romania, Italy and Ireland, the last of whom they will take on in a potential group decider in Cardiff on Oct. 11. "Louis needs to be 100 percent fit. When that is the case, he is outstanding," former France forwards coach Didier Retiere said in July. "... With two months of preparation, he can be enormous." (Editing by David Goodman)