Full-back's withdrawal opens way for hero of World Cup

France's injury problems continued to pile higher than the Eiffel Tower yesterday when their full-back, Thomas Castaignÿde, withdrew from the Six Nations' Championship game against Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday.

Castaignÿde is suffering from a strained leg muscle and is the fourth player to pull out of the match, joining Christophe Dominici, Thomas Lombard and Sebastien Chabel on the sidelines. Castaignÿde's absence opens the way for the Montferrand wing David Bory to make his international debut while Emile Ntamack moves to full-back and Philippe Bernat-Salles returns to the wing for his first match since the World Cup final defeat by Australia last November.

France were already without Christophe Lamaison, Fabien Galthié and Richard Dourthe, all of whom are injured.

Bernat-Salles has rarely been considered a first choice but the 30-year-old wing is preparing for another comeback. The Biarritz player scored four tries for France during the last year's World Cup and played in the final - but when Laporte took over he omitted him from his 35-man initial Six Nations squad.

"I was very disappointed," Bernat-Salles said. "I was not among the 22 and not even among the 35, which meant I was dropped out of the circuit of the national team. For several days I was really depressed but luckily my family and my coach helped me to overcome this painful moment."

Bernat-Salles did not discuss the matter with Laporte but the coach said he considered him a stand-by. "Laporte just told me I was one of the four or five guys he wanted to rely on if someone is injured," Bernat-Salles said. "So, I'm just happy to be here and I'm very keen to prove him he was right to trust me."

Despite the growing number of Tricolores listed as hors de combat Donal Lenihan is not underestimating the French when Ireland come looking for a first win in Paris since 1972.

"We've done a lot of work in analysing the French side," said the Irish team manager. "With injuries and one thing and another they've had to make quite a few changes during their championship campaign to date. But it's probably safe to say that France, with maybe the exception of England, have more strength in depth than anybody else. Many of the players they've brought in have lined up against us in the past, so we're aware of them."

FRANCE (v Ireland, Six Nations' Championship, Paris, Sunday): E Ntamack (Toulouse); P Bernat-Salles (Biarritz), C Desbrosse (Toulouse), S Glas (Bourgoin), D Bory; G Merceron (both Montferrand), C Laussucq (Stade Français); A Benazzi (Agen), F Pelous (Toulouse, capt), A Costes (Montferrand), O Brouzet (Bégles-Bordeaux), H Miorin, F Tournaire (both Toulouse), M Dal Maso (Colomiers), C Califano (Toulouse). Replacements: R Ibanez (Perpignan), P De Villiers (Stade Français), T Liÿvremont (Perpignan), L Mallier (Brive), A Hueber (Toulon), A Penaud (Toulouse), D Venditti (Brive).

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