All change again for the French

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The Independent Online
STEVE BALE

The French selectors yesterday reacted in their traditional way to the shattering defeat in Scotland when they changed more than half the side for Ireland's visit to Paris on Saturday week.

Out goes the scrum-half Philippe Carbonneau, who actually plays centre for his club, while Thomas Castaignede, France's match-winner against England, moves from centre to outside-half, where he does not play for his club, with Thierry Lacroix moving in the other direction.

On the other hand, Christian Califano is switched from tight-head prop to loose head, where he does play for his club, though Abdel Benazzi, one of the world's great loose forwards, now has to bury himself in the second row - which, curiously, is where France's No 8, Fabien Pelous, plays for his club.

The surgery is still minor compared with what Andre Herrero and Jean- Claude Skrela, manager and coach, say might have been. "After we watched the video Jean-Claude said we could change 14 of the players, and I agree," Herrero said yesterday. "The only one who could have saved his head was Sadourny. We are giving them one more chance but it is going to be really the last one."

Herrero and Skrela have relented sufficiently to add Benazzi and Pelous to their list of exonerations. Alain Penaud, the yellow-carded Olivier Merle and Michel Perie are the others discarded, and Lacroix confesses he is lucky to survive. His centre partner, Olivier Campan, is a starter for the first time after three caps as a replacement in 1993.

There are first caps in the pack for Richard Castel and Franck Tournaire, both 23. Castel is so seldom a first choice in the Toulouse back row that no one knows whether he can last 80 minutes. Tournaire has been the coming French prop for some time, but this is what was said about Perie when he won his cap against England - and that was just two and a half weeks ago.

The misgivings the Scots have caused the French were exposed by Emile Ntamack, the match-winning wing, yesterday when he compared Skrela unfavourably with Pierre Berbizier, his predecessor: "Berbizier had a certain authority that Skrela does not."

FRANCE (v Ireland, Paris, 17 February): J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); E Ntamack (Toulouse), O Campan (Agen), T Lacroix (Dax), P Saint-Andre (Montferrand, capt); T Castaignede (Toulouse), G Accoceberry (Begles); C Califano (Toulouse), J-M Gonzales (Bayonne), F Tournaire (Narbonne), A Benazzi (Agen), O Roumat (Dax), R Castel (Toulouse), F Pelous (Dax), L Cabannes (Racing Club). Replacements: P Bernat-Salles (Begles), S Glas (Bourgoin), P Carbonneau, S Dispagne (both Toulouse), M de Rougemont, M Perie (both Toulon).

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