Michalak handed France recall
March 7, 2013
Frederic Michalak returns to the France line-up at the expense of Francois Trinh-Duc who drops to the bench © Getty Images
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has made three changes to his starting line-up for their Six Nations clash with Ireland on Saturday including a surprise recall for fly-half Frederic Michalak.
The Toulon scrum-half is handed the No.10 jersey ahead of Francois Trinh-Duc despite failing to impress off the bench during his side's 23-13 defeat to England last time out. That result - their third straight loss following defeats to Italy and Wales - left them rooted to the bottom of the Six Nations table and on course for not only their first wooden spoon since 1999 but also their first win-less season since 1969. Michalak will partner scrum-half Morgan Parra in the third different half-back pairing Saint-Andre has fielded in this year's championship.
Winger Maxime Medard is also set to make his first Test appearance for over a year having battled back from a knee injury with Benjamin Fall missing out altogether. Elsewhere, Florian Fritz is preferred at outside centre with Mathieu Bastareaud dropping to the bench.
"We need to find an 80-minute performance. At the moment we aren't doing that," Saint-Andre said. "The role of the France team is to win and win in style. But right now, in our situation, if we could sign for a 3-0 win we'd sign straightaway."
He added: "We believe in the team. It's in a difficult moment and we're going to see the true face of this team. It's up to us to raise our heads. We've had a good week of training and a good session this morning.
"We have to force our destiny, we have missed a lot of realism in the first three matches. We have to score when we're on top and let in as few as possible when we're under pressure. We have to be better defensively...We need to win the match in Ireland with lots of appetite, lots of ambition, and above all a performance of a very high level."
On his decision to drop Trinh-Duc, he added: "I have spoken with Francois and he knows why (he has been left out). I prefer to explain these things in private. I think I've read that he wasn't happy with his defensive performance, and Frederic had been excellent in November. It's not a punishment.
"They (Michalak and Parra) have already played together against Samoa in November. For the Ireland match, we wanted to have two goal-kickers. Fred will be the number one kicker, Morgan will take the kicks from further away because he has five to 10 metres more in his legs. But we are still in a construction phase and it isn't extraordinary for us to look to test the half-back axis."
Scrum-half Maxime Machenaud and fly-half Trinh-Duc will be raring to be involved off the bench, with Saint-Andre pointing out they remain firmly in his half-back plans. "For nine matches, we have been using the same four players," he said. "In November we used the Machenaud-Michalak combination a lot. Maxime (Machenaud) has played a lot in recent months, he is young and he is discovering the highest level. Morgan has played excellent matches for France and for Clermont."
France: Yoann Huget; Vincent Clerc, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard; Frederic Michalak, Morgan Parra; Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser, Nicolas Mas, Christophe Samson, Yoann Maestri, Yannick Nyanga, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Louis Picamoles.
Replacements: Guilhem Guirado, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Antonie Claassen, Maxime Machenaud, Francois Trinh-Duc, Mathieu Bastareaud
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales were just 13 minutes from a famous victory, but the lessons to be learned in defeat are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery