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France unchanged to face England
PA Sport
October 10, 2007

France have named an unchanged team for the World Cup semi-final against England in Paris on Saturday.

Les Bleus have gone with the same 22 that defeated New Zealand 20-18 in last weekend's quarter-final in Cardiff.

Frederic Michalak was unable to displace Lionel Beauxis at fly-half, despite turning the game when he came on as a second-half substitute against the All Blacks.

Damien Traille, a centre by trade, keeps his place at full-back, while Serge Betsen and Olivier Milloud have recovered from knocks sustained last weekend to start against the world champions.

Flanker Betsen took a knee to the head against the Kiwis and was forced off after just five minutes. He is back in training though, and team manager Jo Maso insisted the Biarritz star is fit.

``No doctor would take any risks in this respect,'' Maso said. ``We had some tests done in Wales, and he is okay.

``Please trust us, we would not put him on the pitch if he was in any way unfit.

``He is having further tests tomorrow but he has been given a green light to play.

``If he does not feel well during the match, he will obviously be substituted.''

France's sensational comeback display against the All Blacks, who were 13-3 ahead at half-time at the Millennium Stadium, clearly impressed the Les Bleus selectors.

Maso added: ``We are using the team that beat New Zealand last week because we were satisfied with their performance.

``We beat New Zealand with this team so there is no need to change. We had two possible ways of playing and we have chosen this one.''

Head coach Bernard Laporte predicted the boot of Jonny Wilkinson and England's defence would be the main dangers on Saturday.

``As far as they are concerned, we know their main strength is their defence,'' he said.

``In our case we are looking at Wilkinson as he is the world's best kicker, and we need to be careful what he does.

``I am confident we have made the right choices.''

It is the first time since November 2004 that Laporte has named the same team for back-to-back matches.

Laporte insisted the team selection was not an emotional choice following the amazing defeat of the All Blacks.

``So far we have chosen five different teams for five different games, and we have chosen those teams on a sporting and mental criteria.

``The eight not on the pitch are as important as the 22 on it. We trust all of them.

``Hopefully we have two more matches to go - that is the objective.''

France, who will be looking to avenge their 24-7 defeat to England in the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup, have not trained for the past three days.

But they will be back on the paddock today and training will become more intense tomorrow and Friday, Maso assured.

France team to play England in Saturday's World Cup semi-final in Paris: D Traille; V Clerc, D Marty, Y Jauzion, C Heymans; L Beauxis, J-B Elissalde; O Milloud, R Ibanez (capt), P de Villiers, F Pelous, J Thion, S Betsen, T Dusautoir, J Bonnaire.

Replacements: J-B Poux, D Szarzewski, S Chabal, I Harinordoquy, F Michalak, C Dominici, C Poitrenaud.

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