Saint-Andre wields heavy axe
Thu, 21 Feb 2013 11:44
It's a good thing when we French have our backs to the wall
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Thursday made seven changes to his side to take on England in a Six Nations match at Twickenham on Saturday.
Having lost their two opening games against Italy and Wales, Saint-Andre notably restored the halfback partnership of Francois Trinh-Duc and Morgan Parra which brought France the Grand Slam in 2010 and took them to the World Cup Final in 2011.
Also back are hooker Benjamin Kayser, prop Thomas Domingo, flank Yannick Nyanga and top try scorer Vincent Clerc, the wing having missed the last two games through injury.
Clerc's return sees Wesley Fofana revert to centre where he will partner Mathieu Bastareaud, who retains his place after returning to the French squad for this year's tournament.
There is also a first start for Castres lock Christophe Samson, who takes over from Jocelino Suto, who struggled physically in the 16-6 loss to Wales at the Stade de France.
Saint-Andre said that after two demoralising defeats - France's worst ever start to the Six Nations - the time was ripe for some fresh blood to be brought in to take on an English side brimming with confidence after three straight wins.
"The English will start favourites," he said. "We will have to show all our qualities of being French on Saturday - that means being brave, daring, unpredictable and to take the fight to them.
"When we are able to do that, we are able to pose problems for any team in the world.
"To be honest, it's always a good thing when we French have our backs to the wall. That forces us to regroup and to better prepare individually for what will be a bruising contest."
The return of Trinh-Duc and Parra means that the halfback pairing of Frederic Michalak and Maxime Machenaud, preferred by Saint-Andre since he took over as coach from Marc Lievremont, drops down to the bench.
They were outstanding in the November Test wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa but looked generally lacking ideas and penetration against Italy and Wales.
France: 15 Yoann Huget, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Yannick Nyanga, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Jocelino Suta, 20 Antonie Claassen, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Florian Fritz.
Date: Saturday, February 23
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 17.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
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