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Rugby Union: French ask for same again

THE FRESH air that has ruffled French rugby since Pierre Berbizier became coach now even extends to consistency of selection, an unlikely Gallic trait. The side named here yesterday to play South Africa tomorrow is as near as possible to the one who saw off Argentina during the summer, writes Steve Bale from Lyons.

That achievement was worthy of this sort of practical approbation. Berbizier's policy is not dissimilar to Alan Davies's with Wales and the French coach hopes his faith will have the requisite effect on confidence: consistent selection thereby leading to consistent performance.

In fact Berbizier has retained 13 from the second Test in Buenos Aires. Injuries have accounted for Christophe Deslandes and Christian Coeurveille, though the latter's place at centre would have gone to his club partner, Philippe Sella, if neither had been injured. As it happens both are, and Franck Mesnel is recalled instead. Sella will also miss the second Test in Paris next Saturday while he is recovering from a thigh operation.

Mesnel was one of the old guard contentiously left out of the Argentina trip. Sella was another, and so was Jean-Baptiste Lafond, who has failed to oust Jean-Luc Sadourny at full-back despite impressing for Aquitaine against the Springboks last week.

Olivier Roumat, yet another summer discard and last seen internationally when sent off playing for a world team against New Zealand, replaces Deslandes in the second row. France have never been over-blessed with line-out ball-winners such as Roumat and for some reason the selectors have omitted him as often as they have included him.

Even now he is widely perceived as lucky to have been preferred to Abdel Benazzi after an indifferent contribution in the Aquitaine match. But the South Africans' line-out predicament, now that they like everyone else are prevented from lifting, gives Roumat an unusually big chance tomorrow to prove himself.

FRANCE (v South Africa, Lyons, 17 October): J- L Sadourny (Colomiers); P Saint-Andre (Montferrand), F Mesnel (Racing Club), C Deylaud (Toulouse), S Viars; A Penaud (both Brive), A Hueber (Toulon); J-M Gonzales (Bayonne), L Armary (Lourdes), P Gallart (Beziers), J-M Cadieu (Toulouse), O Roumat (Dax), J-F Tordo (Nice), M Cecillon (Bourgoin, capt), L Cabannes (Racing Club). Replacements: J-B Lafond (Begles), T Lacroix (Dax), F Galthie (Colomiers), S Graou (Auch), A Benazzi, P Benetton (both Agen).