France ring the changes for Scotland clash
March 14, 2013
Antoine Claassen will pack down at blindside flanker at the Stade de France © Getty Images
Flanker Antoine Claassen and lock Sebastien Vahaamahina will make their first starts for France against Scotland in Paris on Saturday.
Claassen comes in for Yannick Nyanga who drops to the bench while Vahaamahina gets the nod ahead of Christophe Samson who is also named among the replacements. Coach Philippe Saint-Andre has also opted to restore Mathieu Bastareaud to his midfield with Florian Fritz making way due to a foot infection. Gael Fickou steps up to the bench in Fritz's absence.
Frederic Michalak retains the faith of his coach and the No.10 shirt despite attracting criticism for his showing in the 13-all draw with Ireland last weekend and will once again partner Morgan Parra at half-back.
On Michalak's inclusion, Saint-Andre said: "The Stade de France will be behind the France team and Michalak. "I cannot imagine that those who celebrated him in November will boo."
The omission of Nyanga has raised eyebrows after he performed so well in the Autumn Tests, but Saint-Andre said: "Yannick does not have the same freshness as in November. He was a great leader and key in the tackle, but he has not been breaking up play as well as in November and he knows it."
France have just one point to their name after last week's draw with Ireland was preceded by defeats to Italy, Wales and England, and they will finish bottom of the pile for the first time in 56 years if they lose to a Scotland side without a win in Paris since 1999.
But Saint-Andre insists he still has the essence of a good team, and added: "To build a great team, you have to know how to lose. It is from defeat that you will see great teams emerge. But I know that this group has soul and pride. I can sense their reaction. They need to let themselves go for the whole 80 minutes."
France: Yoann Huget; Vincent Clerc, Mathieu Bastareaud, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Médard; Frederic Michalak, Morgan Parra; Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser, Nicolas Mas, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Yoann Maestri, Antoine Claassen, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Louis Picamoles
Replacements: Guilhem Guirado, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Christophe Samson, Yannick Nyanga, Maxime Machenaud, Francois Trinh-Duc, Gael Fickou.
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