France step up World Cup preparations
August 12, 2011
France will look to the versatile Damien Traille for inspiration come Saturday © Getty Images
France and Ireland will look to put down a timely Rugby World Cup marker in their clash at Bordeaux's Stade Chaban-Delmas on Saturday.
History is on France's side going into the clash and while the pair have never played in Bordeaux before, France have won nine of their last ten meetings. And Les Bleus' coach Marc Lievremont will be hoping his side perform well in what will be just one of two warm-up matches - with the other the return leg in Dublin next weekend.
A win for Lievremont and co would also prove to be a valuable antidote for the recent off-field matters that saw Yoann Huget expelled from their training camp for breaching anti-doping rules. Ireland may not have suffered such headline-grabbing woe, but last weekend's 10-6 defeat to Scotland still raised many questions. As a result, they will be out to banish memories of that lacklustre showing but perhaps crucially, they will once again be without talismanic centre Brian O'Driscoll.
The game offers the Irish to exorcise some demons with the Stade Chaban-Delmas having played host to their far from impressive 2007 World Cup victories over Namibia and more notably Georgia.
France - Player to Watch: The unpredictable yet mercurial Dimitri Yachvili gets the nod at scrum-half and will hope to earn Lievremont's favour with No.9 rival Morgan Parra poised amongst the replacements.
France - Team News: Flanker Raphael Lakafia makes his debut and he will be partnered by the experienced duo of Imanol Harinordoquy and captain Thierry Dusautoir in the back-row. With hooker Williams Servat and props Thomas Domingo and Nicolas nursing injuries, the front-row has an unfamiliar look to it with Sylvain Marconnet, Dimitri Szarzewski and Luc Ducalcon all starting. Elsewhere, Maxime Mermoz comes back into the centres with Damien Traille starting at fullback.
Ireland - Player to Watch: Keith Earls starts at outside centre for the first time this year in the place of Fergus McFadden and will be out underline his versatility and cement his World Cup place. His ability to perform in a variety of positions makes him all but indispensable when working within the limitations of a 30-man squad.
Ireland - Team News: Earls partner Paddy Wallace in midfield while veteran Ronan O'Gara and Eoin Reddan get a chance to impress at fly-half and scrum-half respectively. Donncha Ryan moves to the blindside with Donncha O'Callaghan taking his place in the second-row. The front-row is also different with Cian Healy, Rory Best and Mike Ross coming into the side.
Key Battle: An intriguing battle awaits at scrum time between veteran France loose-head Sylvain Marconnet and the relatively inexperienced Irish tight-head Mike Ross. Similarly, the showdown between Irish loose-head Cian Healy and opposing tight-head Luc Ducalcon could prove to be equally pivotal.
Trivia: The versatile Damien Traille has lined up for France in three positions in the last nine months. He made a disastrous cameo at fly-half against Australia back in November and was at fullback for the Six Nations clash with Scotland in February. A week later he was back in his preferred centre berth against the Irish but will fill the No.15 shirt on this occasion.
"Over the last five weeks I've found him to be intelligent, very at ease with ball in hand and as part of the group. We believe he is ready."
"Whatever you call the game or series, once you pull on that jersey you're duty-bound to respect the people who have worn it in the past and the people at home by playing to the best of your ability."
Prediction: Ireland may be better for their run out against the Scots last weekend, but France will be chomping at the bit and the desire to give their fans plenty of reason for World Cup hope should see them prevail. Expect Trinh-Duc and Yachvilli to dictate proceedings.
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