Frederic Michalak starts at fly-half
June 13, 2013
Frederic Michalak named to add 'accuracy' © Getty Images
France coach Phillipe Saint-Andre has made five changes to his starting XV for the second Test against New Zealand at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday, with Frederic Michalak starting at first five-eighth. Saint-Andre, meanwhile, made three changes to the forward pack and one positional switch in the backline.
Fit-again 49-Test prop Nicolas Mas returns to bolster a scrum that struggled against Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett, while Castres lock Christophe Samson backs up from the 38-15 win over the Blues on Tuesday to join the tight five. Tight-head Luc Ducalon and New Caledonian-born lock Sebastien Vahaamahina move to the bench. South African-born Bernard Le Roux is set to make his Test debut in place of Fulgence Quedrango on the openside.
Florian Fritz and second-five Wesley Fofana have been retained in the centres, despite rumours that Toulon bulldozer Mathieu Bastareaud would start in the midfield, with the latter named on the bench. Maxime Medard has been handed the No.15 jumper after his outstanding performance against the Blues at fullback, with Yoann Huget moving to the left wing.
Saint Andre said the lack of accuracy in their opening loss to the All Blacks was behind the decision to replace Camille Lopez, who debuted at No 10 last week, with the 65-Test veteran Michalak, whom New Zealanders remember for his involvement in the try that earned France a shock win over the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup 2007 quarter-finals. "I think he's a talented player and he has a lot of flair," Saint-Andre said of Michalak at the team hotel in Auckland. "He has more or less been the first choice of the French team for the last 12 months. Also he is a world-class kicker. "We were not clinical [in the first Test] so I hope Michalak can bring us this."
Michalak, used solely as a half-back off the bench during the two matches on tour, said earlier in the week of his desire to return to his natural role as a playmaker. "I can play both," he told Sportal. "It's what I do with my club Toulon. But of course I prefer playing No.10. I'm more confident there and I've got a little bit more space. I can create a little bit more."
Saint-Andre was not surprised that New Zealand coach Steve Hansen had retained the starting XV that won the first Test, but he said the addition of Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore and Piri Weepu to the bench made the All Blacks a much stronger outfit. "No I am not surprised. I would say they were rusty because they hadn't played too much, it was the first Test," he said. "They've kept a lot of continuity to pick the same fifteen but they brought a lot of experience to the bench with three World Cup champions."
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Mesam; Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Rene Ranger.
France: Maxime Medard; Adrien Plante, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget; Frederic Michalak, Maxime Machenaud; Louis Picamoles, Bernard Le Roux, Thierry Dusautoir (captain); Yoann Maestri, Christophe Samson; Nicolas Mas, Dimitri Szarzewski, Thomas Domingo. Replacements: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalon, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Yannick Nyanga, Brice Dulin, Remi Tales, Mathieu Bastareaud.
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