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Preview: Australia v France

Thu, 19 Jun 2014 14:16
Cummins-v-france
He looked like a giant
Quote-end
Australia may have the series wrapped up but the French have shown they have some grit about them. In this final rubber there is still plenty to prove.
 
Australia's revival under head coach Ewen McKenzie takes new facets every time the Wallabies walk out, they have shown that they are a team for all seasons - from scoring 50 points to grinding out a horrifically boring win.
 
On the other hand, the French flair that is so often associated with the national team seems to be AWOL at present; their unpredictability and poor team cohesion however, is still very present.
 
Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie has finally decided to unleash 203cm, 140kg New Zealand-born lock Will Skelton for his Test debut.
 
The 22-year-old is one of two changes to the run-on side, with No.8 Wycliff Palu returning from a minor ankle injury. 
 
Prop Scott Sio and outside back Rob Horne have both been added to the bench.
 
Horne replaced Brumbies utility Pat McCabe who suffered shoulder nerve damage last Saturday.
 
The French have one last shot at some pride, but it might just all be unraveled by a Skelton-shaped wrecking ball.
 
France boss Philippe Saint-Andre has also made two changes to his run-on side.
 
Fulgence Ouedraogo will start at flank forcing Yannick Nyanga back to the bench while young gun Hugo Bonneval replaces Maxime Medard on the wing.
 
Much has been made of the man mountain that is Will Skelton, with opposition coach Saint-Andre seemingly impressed with the lock (but at the expense of Wycliff Palu).
 
"I was very impressed because he looked like a giant. We know he is strong, powerful and he will bring much more power in the pack with the No.8 Palu," he said.
 
Meanwhile, McKenzie was less bothered by the side-show of selections and more focused on a complete game, something that was lacking in the second Test.
 
“You’re always working towards that complete game where you find the balance between your intentions in attack and an impenetrable defence.
 
"It has been pleasing to see the squad highlight those characteristics at different points across the past six games…the challenge is to put both together and that will be our goal on Saturday,” said McKenzie.
 
Players to Watch:
 
For Australia: It may sound like a stuck record but Israel Folau is a player who draws eyes onto him naturally with his exciting running play. If the game is loose and free flowing, expect the Waratahs man do some damage. Will Skelton will have plenty of eyes on him as everyone looks to see if the young-man can make the big step up.
 
For France: Remi Tales is supposedly the answer to French flyhalf woes that have plagued them for a few years, he has a cool head about him, for a French player, and can get some of their bigger backs going. Speaking of bigger players, Mathieu Bastareaud is a powerhouse in the midfield and if he has the possibility to get a head of steam up then Australia could be a bit busy watching him.
 
Head to Head: Bernard Foley versus Remi Tales: The Wallabies coach has stuck solid with Foley and anointed him as his first option for The Rugby Championship. That doesn’t mean Foley is beyond reproach, however, and he needs a solid performance this week to repay McKenzie’s belief. France employed a rush defence last week to close down the Wallabies’ options out wide and that combined with Foley’s relatively flat alignment seemed to stutter the No.10’s game.Saint-Andre has retained Tales at No.10 after a solid outing in Melbourne. The Racing Metro flyhalf mixed his game up nicely and provided one of the match’s few highlights when he laid on a break for hooker Guilhem Guirado.The extra week’s training for Tales, Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud should also see the French backs at their best this week, providing they come with an attacking attitude.Will Skelton versus Yoann Maestri: Contrary to popular belief, Skelton has been selected for his skill more so than his size. McKenzie admitted to being impressed with his sleight of hand at the Waratahs, and it’s that offload ability and what looks to be a fine understanding of the game that has many excited. On the other side of the ledger is Maestri who lines up in the No.5 shirt for the third straight Test. The French lock had a game-high seven lineout wins last week but his impact elsewhere around the park has been limited.
 
Recent results:
2014: Australia won 6-0, Melbourne
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
 
Prediction: Although the French did a lot to show their true metal in the Melbourne Test, the Australians also showed their class by holding their nerve to beat the traveling French. There has been news out of the French camp that some of the bigger names are suffering a few niggles from training with stand-in captain Nicolas Mas complaining of exhaustion. Wallabies by about 10.
 
Teams:
 
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 James Horwill, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Rob Horne.
 
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Hugo Bonneval, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Alexandre Menini.
Replacements: 16 Christophe Tolofua, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Bernard Le Roux, 20 Louis Picamoles, 21 Yannick Nyanga, 22 Maxime Machenaud, 23 Remi Lamerat.

Date: Saturday, June 21
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 15.00 (05.00 GMT, 07.00 French time)
Expected weather: Brilliant sunshine and pleasant. High of 20°C and low of 6°C
Referee: Chris Pollock  (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), George Clancy (Ireland)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
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