France lose duo ahead of All Blacks clash

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The Independent Online

After watching the All Blacks injury concerns mount, France now must contend with the loss of two experienced players following the climax to their domestic rugby season in Paris last weekend.

Veteran wing Aurelien Rougerie and flanker Julien Bonnaire were to be among eight players on a flight due to land in Auckland tonight, but the pair were replaced after being injured during the Top 14 final between Clermont and Perpignan.

Rougerie, who has 55 caps, and Bonnaire, 44 caps, were ruled out after picking up injuries during their Clermont team's 13-22 loss.

They have been replaced by uncapped pair, Stade Francais wing Julien Arias and Bayonne's Julien Puricelli.

The loss of Rougerie and Bonnaire strips almost 100 tests worth of experience from the French tour party though the squad still boasts 608 caps.

France were already been denied the services of original tour captain Lionel Nallet, experienced No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy and halfback Morgan Parra before the first wave of players arrived in Auckland last Monday.

Rougerie and Bonnaire were unlikely to have featured in the opening first test in Dunedin on Saturday, but they would have been in contention for the second test in Wellington a week later and the tour-ending international against Australia on June 27.

The All Blacks have also been hard hit by injuries. Sitiveni Sivivatu and Richard Kahui have season-ending shoulder injuries; Daniel Carter, Richie McCaw and Rodney So'oialo are all unavailable until the Tri-Nations; while Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Conrad Smith and Brendon Leonard will miss next weekend's match.

Kahui was last night replaced by Luke McAlister, who did enough for the Barbarians against Australia in Sydney on Saturday night to join the squad in Dunedin today.

Stephen Brett was called into the Junior All Blacks squad for the Pacific Nations Cup after McAlister was fast-tracked into the All Blacks.

France was to resume training today after enjoying a relaxing weekend.

The players watched the Top 14 final in the team hotel before some embarked on a cruise to Waiheke Island while others shopped or had a round of golf.

Their 22-man test squad is named on Wednesday night and they fly to Dunedin the following morning.

This story was sourced from The New Zealand Herald.