Rugby-Veteran Michalak reclaims French flyhalf spot

By Julien Pretot PARIS, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Less than a year ago, Frederic Michalak came close to retiring after yet another serious injury. Now the leading French international points scorer is back at flyhalf in the national team at the age of 32 and determined to make an impact at his third Rugby World Cup. Michalak played in both the 2003 and 2007 tournaments. He scored 23 points during a 43-21 quarter-final win over Ireland at the 2003 tournament in Australia but then had a terrible game in a rain-drenched semi-final against eventual champions England in Sydney. Four years later in Cardiff, after coming on as a substitute, he set up the try which led to France's upset quarter-final win over New Zealand. He was not selected for the 2011 tournament when France lost to New Zealand by one point only in the final at Auckland's Eden Park. Michalak joined the Duban-based Sharks after the 2007 World Cup and made his comeback to the international side in the 2009 Six Nations championship, but only as a replacement scrumhalf. In the following year he was used again as a substitute at scrumhalf, flyhalf and centre when France won the grand slam. He was recalled by coach Philippe Saint-Andre after the 2011 World Cup but his career appeared to be over when he picked up a serious shoulder injury last September in a Top 14 game against Stade Francais which sidelined him for four months. "When I was in the dressing room, I was crushed. To me, this third shoulder injury signaled the end of my career," Michalak, who won his first cap at the age of 19 in 2001 against South Africa, recalled. "It looked like my body was telling me that it had had enough, that at the age of 32 it was time to draw the curtain." After a successful operation, Michalak led Les Bleus to an important 25-20 win over England in a warmup match in Paris last month. He scored 17 points and reclaimed his position as the French number one flyhalf ahead of Francois Trinh-Duc. France backs' coach Patrice Lagisquet believes Michalak is now a much more composed player. "He's reached maturity while keeping his creative talent," Lagisquet said. (Editing by John Mehaffey)