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France: Rigaudeau Relishes Return To France

11 May 2005

Antoine Rigaudeau is still hopeful of becoming one of the key elements in the French national side.

The 33-year-old won his battle against an Achilles injury and got back into action with Pamesa Valencia in March after a six-month absence.

If I come back to the French team, it's because I want to bring something
Antoine Rigaudeau

The Spanish club's abysmal season, which saw them miss out on the play-offs means he can now focus on sealing his place in the French squad for Eurobasket 2005.

That tournament will take place in Serbia & Montenegro from September 16 to 25.

In an interview with L'Equipe, Rigaudeau, who won a FIBA EuroLeague crown with Virtus Bologna and also snatched silver with France at the Sydney Olympics, says he can't wait to return to the national team set-up.

"I like the idea of joining the current group and living with them," he said.

"The current French national side have ambition and determination to achieve great things.

"They also want to help French basketball evolve, and if I can be part of it, and help them, I will be very happy."

Rigaudeau was set to help Les Bleus qualify for Eurobasket 2005 last year but was forced to pull out because of his Achilles problem.

"When I decided to come back into international action last year I was happy to help them and now I am going to be able to do it," he added.

However, he insists he wants to play an active role in the team and not just be there to make up the numbers and to pass on advice to younger players.

"If I come back to the French team, it's because I want to bring something, I don't want to follow," he said.

"I am not demanding anything, but I will not joining to remain on the sidelines."

When basketball fans look back at Eurobasket 2003, they can see very easily how Rigaudeau's experience would have come in handy.

They were among the favourites to capture gold, but ended up in fourth place and ended up missing out on the Olympics.

Les Bleus will start their preparations on August 7 in Alpe D'Huez, where they will stay until the August 20 before travelling to Spain and Turkey.

They will be back in France at the start of September, when they will take on Turkey, Ukraine and Bulgaria in a tournament in Limoges between September 8 and 10.

Coach Bergeaud will reveal his 20-man squad on May 23 during a press conference in Paris before shortlisting 16 or 18 players ahead of their preparations in Alpe d'Huez.

He will then unveil his final 12-man squad during the tournament in Limoges.

The French team will begin their Eurobasket campaign against Greece on September 16. They will also have Group C games against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia.

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