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Wales v France, Six Nations, February 9
Dusautoir expecting French backlash
ESPN Staff
February 8, 2013
France skipper Thierry Dusautoir poses with the Six Nations trophy, Six Nations launch, Hurlingham Club, London, January 25, 2012
Thierry Dusautoir will captain France for the 34th time against Wales © Getty Images
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Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: France | Wales

France skipper Thierry Dusautoir expects a backlash to their opening weekend defeat to Italy, when Les Bleus takes on Wales on Saturday.

The back-rower keeps hold of the captaincy after first-choice Pascal Pape was ruled out through injury. He was handed the armband midway through the second half of the 23-18 loss after Pape hobbled off with a back injury. The Toulouse flanker has captained France in 33 of his 56 appearances and was an inspirational force in them reaching the World Cup final in 2011, when he scored his side's only try in the final. Even so he doesn't believe the team requires his leadership to return to winning ways.

"I don't think the players need my help," he said. "They are angry about their performance last weekend. But we have to remember the Italians played a very good game. We weren't good enough to win a Six Nations match. I think our pride was hurt enough that we will be able to get ourselves up for the Welsh game."

It is not the first time that the 31-year-old Dusautoir has been part of a France team that has found itself under-fire after losing to Italy. Two years ago he was part of the team that slumped to a 22-21 loss at the Stadio Flaminio having led 18-6 at one stage. A week later though they found their stride in Paris against Wales to end the 2011 Six Nations with a 28-9 win.

"It's not the first time that I find myself in this situation, after a defeat in Italy," he said. "It's a situation that I know, but there aren't that many solutions for bouncing back. We have four games left. We have to tell ourselves that the tournament didn't end in Rome."

Pape will be replaced by Toulon second-row Jocelino Suta and is one of two changes to the side that lost in Rome. Mathieu Bastareaud is the other new face and he will replace Florian Fritz in the centre.

France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre admitted that he was tempted to make wholesale changes, but in the end resisted to allow his charges the chance to develop their team harmony.

"Aside from Pascal Pape's injury we resisted the temptation to make changes to the squad as we wanted to work on turning them into a more cohesive unit and also we have one day less to prepare them for the game," Saint-Andre said. "I hope that will pay off in terms of cohesion and defying the Welsh on Saturday and there will be a united hunger to do so.

"It is imperative that our team rediscovers its' collective hunger, enthusiasm and spontaneity. The tournament is far from over; our ambition is still there to show our best in a high quality competition."

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