French rookies to face Tonga

Thu, 14 Nov 2013 11:13
I'm expecting him to have a great match

Wing Sofiane Guitoune and centre Gael Fickou will start a Test match for France for the first time, against Tonga in Le Havre on Saturday.

In all, the side named on Thursday by coach Philippe Saint-Andre shows five changes from that beaten 26-19 by New Zealand last week in the first of the November Tests - as Saint-Andre puts the accent on youth.

Perpignan wing Guitoune, 24, gets his reward for an explosive start to the season at club level, having scored seven tries, making him the Top 14's joint leading scorer.

"I'm expecting him to have a great match, he is a player who just lives and breathes rugby, he's a finisher who knows where the line is, too," Saint-Andre said.

"He has the ability to find the opening and his timing is good."

At 19, Toulouse centre Fickou has already sampled the heady atmosphere of international rugby as a replacement, having come on for five minutes in the 23-16 victory over Scotland last March, and played the last 13 minutes against the All Blacks.

He will line up alongside 24-year-old Wesley Fofana at centre, with Fofana making his 20th appearance, and Saint-Andre explained: "They finished the game in the centre together last week, they are both very young for centres, but Wesley is starting to get a fair bit of experience."

The coach made three other changes, all in the pack, with hooker Dimitri Szarzewski replacing Benjamin Kayser and Perpignan's 22-year-old Sebastien Vahaamahina coming into the second row for Pascal Pape, who drops to the bench.

In the back row, Fulgence Ouedraogo returns after the ankle injury which forced him out of the New Zealand tour in June and a subsequent shoulder injury, which kept him out last week, replacing Wenceslas Lauret.

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Maxime Medard, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastian Vahaamahina, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Pascal Pape, 20 Bernard Le Roux, 21 Jonathan Pelissie, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.

Date: Saturday, November 16
Venue: Stade Oceane, Le Havre
Kick-off: 18.00 (17.00 GMT; 06.00, Sunday, November 17 Tonga time)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Juan Sylvestre (Argentina)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)