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Preview: Australia v France

Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:33
Toomua-try-v-france
They’ll look to be more direct
Quote-end
This weeks game should be an entirely different affair to the 50-23 drubbing the French received from the Wallabies in Brisbane.
 
The Wallabies performance against the French spoke more of a poor, unstructured Les Bleus team than a world-beating Wallabies display.
 
In typical French fashion, coach Phillippe Saint-Andre has axed 10 players from last weekend's starting side and brought in the likes of giant centre Mathieu Bastareaud and fullback Brice Dulin after they were rested last week due to their late arrival following the Top 14 final.
 
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has made three forced changes to his starting forward pack. Skipper Stephen Moore (knee), lock Sam Carter and No.8 Wycliff Palu (ankle) are all out with injuries suffered last weekend.
 
Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Horwill and Ben McCalman have all been promoted. Rebels trio Scott Higginbotham, Laurie Weeks and Luke Jones come onto the bench, with Jones in line to make his Test debut.
 
The French, with all their mystery and flair, can at least be counted on the bounce back.
 
As was evident when in the 2011 World Cup semi-final against Wales where they were terrible but somehow managed to win that game. They came out the following week and were superb, despite losing the final to the All Blacks. 
 
The fact is you never know what you're going to get from the French from one game to the next.
 
Australian coach Ewen McKenzie has had a good look at the section changes made by his counter-part and believes he has spotted their game-plan.
 
"I think that they’ll look to be more direct. If you pick guys like (centre Mathieu) Bastareaud and (No.8 Louis) Picamoles you’re going to get a fairly direct approach," said McKenzie.
 
"They’re robust and good at denting the line, good at bending the line.
 
"So there’s two guys there, one in the forwards, one in the backs, who can do that, so that might suggest a different set of tactics.” 
 
While McKenzie is clear in his non complacency, France coach Philippe Saint-Andre is determined in his teams ability to fight back.
 
“We were all ashamed, whether it was the staff or the players," said Saint-Andre.
 
"Going down by 27 points is never pleasant. 
 
"There have been talks, videos, recovery because that game left physical and mental scars.
 
"We have prepared ourselves for a big game, a big fight.”
 
Players to Watch: 
 
For Australia: Just like last week, Israel Folau is a danger man for the Wallabies. He was able to glide into gaps and find space at will and will be looking for more of the same (even though it should be slightly harder this time round). Other players that will be Rebels trio Scott Higginbotham, Laurie Weeks and Luke Jones, with Jones in line to make his Test debut, all three of them will be looking to prove something and repay McKenzie for his faith put in them.
 
For France: There is far more star-quality to choose from this week, none more so than IRB player of the year for 2011,Thierry Dusautoir. Usual scrumhalf Morgan Parra, flyhalf Remi Tales and hulking outside centre Mathieu Bastareaud add both power and flair to a backline that looks far more solid both in attack and defense. Louis Picamoles is another direct and hard runner that should harden up the french forward pack.
 
Head to Head: Michael Hooper v Thierry Dusautoir. It’s a tale of two leaders at two very different points of their careers as Test captains.Young gun Hooper will lead the Wallabies out for the first time as a Test captain while Veteran Dusautoir, 32, will be hoping he can wind back the clock when he returns to action on Saturday night.
The French pack was badly beaten last week and will be looking to the experience, guile and work rate of their inspirational flanker to give them a much-needed boost.They’ll need it, as Hooper is fast making a name for himself as one of the world’s best opensides and at the tender age of 22 the only way is seemingly up.
Tevita Kuridrani v Mathieu Bastareaud. Under pressure from Adam Ashley-Cooper at the start of the series, Tevita Kuridrani could have done little more last week to show he is Ewen McKenzie’s long-term option at No.13. The Brumbies outside centre had a fine game alongside his provincial teammate Toomua and ran with authority in the wider channels. He faces a tougher assignment this weekend in Bastareaud, France have a 115kg wrecking ball with a surprising amount of subtlety to his game.
The Toulon powerhouse will be a focal point for Les Bleus in attack while fly half Remi Tales will also look to use him in a decoy capacity to create opportunities for Fofana on the inside, and Maxime Medard further out.
Bastareaud can be a liability in defence however, with Kuridrani and the threat of Israel Folau joining from fullback sure to test his heavy feet.
 
Recent results:
2014 Australia won 50-26, Brisbane
2012 France won 33-6, Paris
2010 Australia won 59-16, Paris
2009 Australia won 22-6, Sydney
2008 Australia won 18-13, Paris
2008 Australia won 40-10, Brisbane
2008 Australia won 34-13, Sydney
2005 France won 26-16, Marseille
2005 Australia won 37-31, Brisbane
2004 France won 27-14, Paris
 
Prediction: Which ever way you look at it, most people are still expecting an Australian victory, however this week it will be more of a competition. Saint-Andre has a far more impressive team on paper and the attitude coming out the French camp is one of retribution. That being said, the Wallabies are in a good place with their team dynamics and McKenzie seems to have the players at ease therefore it should be Australia by no more than 10.
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