Preview: France v Tonga
Fri, 15 Nov 2013 07:20
In the four meetings between the sides the spoils have been shared equally
France will be out to erase the memory of one of their most embarrassing defeats when they face Tonga in Le Havre on Saturday.
The last time the two sides met was at the 2011 World Cup when Tonga registered a famous victory, before France went on to reach the final which they lost to hosts New Zealand.
In fact, in the four meetings between the sides the spoils have been shared equally with two wins each, which will give the Tongans confidence heading into this clash with their more fancied hosts.
Although France put the All Blacks to the test in Paris last week the fact remains that they have won just one Test this year, so they will be desperate to to taste victory against the Islanders.
French coach Philippe Saint-Andre has made five changes to the side that went down narrowly to the All Blacks, with young backs Sofiane Guitoune and Gael Fickou handed their first starts.
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 loose trio 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.
After going down to Romania last week Tonga will be keen to turn things around and take advantage of the inexperienced French side.
There have been some changes from the team that played Romania, with Joe Tuineau replacing Uili Kolo'ofa'i at lock and Bayonne No.8 'Opeti Fonua pushing Viliami Ma'afu to the bench, whilst experienced scrumhalf Taniela Moa comes in for Thomas Palu.
Players to watch:
For France: Brice Dulin starred against the All Blacks last week and will be looking to continue that form. In the midfield Wesley Fofana will be the main attraction, whilst scrumhalf Morgan Parra will dictate matters from behind the scrum. No.8 Damien Chouly will get his side over the gainline and skipper Thierry Dusautoir will pose a major threat at the breakdown. Yoann Maestri will want to rule the line-outs and in the scrums look no further than powerful tighthead Nicolas Mas.
For Tonga: The main attraction comes in the form of fearsome loosehead prop Alisona Taumalolo who certainly knows his way to the tryline and will receive support from captain and loose forward Nili Latu. In the backline wily scrumhalf Taniela Moa will be key and Fetu'u Vainikolo will pose a threat out wide.
Head to head: Look no further than the battle at scrum-time between French tighthead Nicolas Mas and Tongan loosehead Alisona Taumalolo which will no doubt set the tone. Both scrumhalves Morgan Parra and Taniela Moa will look to give their teams direction and the midfield battle between Sione Piukala and Wesley Fofana should also be fierce.
2011: Tonga won 19-14 in Wellington
2005: France won 43-8 in Toulouse
1999: Tonga won 20-16 in Nuku A'lofa
1995: France won 38-10 in Pretoria
Prediction: Tonga will be fired up to cause another upset, but France should have too much firepower on home turf so we expect them to win by 15 points.
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.
Tonga: 15 Vungakoto Lilo, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Sione Piukala, 11 Will Helu, 10 Fangatapu 'Apikotoa, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 'Opeti Fonua, 7 Nili Latu (captain), 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Joe Tu'ineau, 4 Tukulua Lokotui, 3 Tevita Mailau, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Alisona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 'Ilaisa Ma'asi, 17 Taione Vea, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Viliami Ma'afu, 20 Hale T Pole, 21 Samisoni Fisilau, 22 Latiume Fosita, 23 Tevita Halaifonua.
Date: Saturday, November 16
Venue: Stade Oceane, Le Havre
Kick-off: 18.00 (17.00 GMT; 06.00, Sunday, November 17 Tonga time)
Expected weather: Heavy fog but no rain, high of 9 with a 15kph breeze
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Juan Sylvestre (Argentina)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
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