Confident France welcome Springboks
November 11, 2009
Thierry Dusautoir will lead France in Toulouse © Getty Images
Peter De Villiers Schalk Burger Vincent Clerc Thierry Dusautoir Cedric Heymans Marc Lievremont Morne Steyn
After a famous victory over New Zealand earlier this summer and with a new captain in place, France head in to their November Test schedule brimming with confidence.
Les Bleus' belief will be strongly tested on Friday with the toughest test currently available in world rugby - a showdown with South Africa. The Rugby World Cup holders and reigning Tri-Nations champions have been in bruising form of late and will be keen to put down a marker after their midweek side disappointingly slipped to defeat against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road last weekend.
France coach Marc Lievremont has selected a ruthless, powerful pack for the game in the hopes of meeting the Springboks head on. The game has also been shifted to Toulouse, meaning that the visitors will be greeted by a deafening noise from one of world rugby's most passionate crowds.
Their selection is brimming with experience however and in skipper John Smit they have a man who has led his men through thick and thin in recent seasons. Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha start in the second-row once again and will need to be at their combative best.
With Pierre Spies out of the tour with a broken finger, Ryan Kankowski gets an opportunity at the base of the scrum. Heinrich Brussow was recalled from his surprising inclusion in the midweek side and starts on the openside, with Schalk Burger standing in for the injured Juan Smith.
In the backs, recent departures from South African rugby may have an effect. Jean de Villiers, now at Munster, is replaced at No.12 by Adi Jacobs and Frans Steyn's fullback jersey falls to Blue Bulls youngster Zane Kirchner. Fourie du Preez is present and correct at scrum-half and Morne Steyn will be closely watched after several match-winning contributions with the boot during the Tri-Nations and British & Irish Lions tour.
France, so often thrilling yet inconsistent, have named a side with promise in the backs and menace up-front. New skipper Thierry Dusautoir leads a back-row that will go to-to-toe with the Springboks at the breakdown. Imanol Harinordoquy starts in the No.7 jersey, leaving Louis Picamoles to rampage from the base of the scrum.
In the front-row the experienced William Servat and Nicolas Mas are joined by Fabien Barcella, while former skipper Lionel Nallet packs down alongside Romain Millo-Chluski in the second-row.
Looking to exploit Jacobs' perceived defensive frailties at inside-centre will be Yann David and Maxime Mermoz, with Perpignan centre Mermoz in the form of his young career. Out wide there is plenty of pace and experience in the Toulouse duo of Cedric Heymans and Vincent Clerc. At fullback, Lievremont has opted for the siege-gun boot of Biarrtiz's Damien Traille.
It's a game that has all the makings of a classic, with power and aggression in the forwards and bucket-loads of pace and invention out wide. "We think power will be important against the Springboks," said Lievremont. Watch this space.
France: Damien Traille, Vincent Clerc, Yann David, Maxime Mermoz, Cedric Heymans, Francois Trinh-Duc, Julien Dupuy, Fabien Barcella, William Servat, Nicolas Mas, Lionel Nallet, Romain Millo-Chluski, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Imanol Harinordoquy, Louis Picamoles
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Sylvain Marconnet, Sebastien Chabal, Julien Bonnaire, Morgan Parra, David Marty, Maxime Medard
South Africa: Zane Kirchner; JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Adi Jacobs, Bryan Habana; Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smit (capt), Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Ryan Kankowski
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Wian du Preez, CJ van der Linde, Andries Bekker, Danie Rossouw, Ruan Pienaar, Wynand Olivier
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), James Jones (Wales)