Lievremont gambles for Wales clash

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The Independent Online

France head coach Marc Lievremont has taken a major gamble by selecting Benoit Baby at fly-half for Friday's RBS 6 Nations match against Wales in Paris.

Baby, a centre by trade, gets the nod over Francois Trinh-Duc, who was only called up on Monday as a replacement for the injured Lionel Beauxis and will start on the bench against the Welsh.



With Baby moved to number 10, in-form Stade Francais powerhouse Mathieu Bastareaud - another late call-up - is handed a debut at centre alongside Yannick Jauzion.



With Morgan Parra coming in for Sebastien Tillous-Borde at scrum-half, France are going with an untried and inexperienced half-back partnership for arguably their toughest match of the championship.



Elsewhere behind the scrum, Maxime Medard reverts to full-back in place of Toulouse team-mate Clement Poitrenaud, with Julien Malzieu coming in on the wing.



In the forwards, Sylvain Marconnet is drafted into the front row and will make his 72nd appearance for France, equalling the prop record held by Christian Califano.



The Stade Francais veteran was called into the squad last week as a result of injuries suffered by Nicolas Mas and Benoit Lecouls.



In the second row, Sebastien Chabal returns in place of Romain Millo-Chluski and in all there are five personnel changes to the team which started the 22-13 win over Scotland a week and a half ago.



Les Bleus lost their first match of the tournament 30-21 to Ireland in Dublin.



Lievremont's choice of Baby and Parra means Les Bleus will go into the Stade de France encounter without a specialist goalkicker.



Parra will take over kicking duties, something he has done only once before - against England in last year's Six Nations when he was successful with his only attempt.



Lievremont insisted he was left with no choice but to go with Baby after seeing first-choice fly-half Beauxis injure his back while playing for Stade Francais against Toulon in the Top 14 last Friday.



"We regret the withdrawal of Lionel Beauxis," he said. "Events therefore dictate our choice.



"We know it's not ideal - we need our best team against Wales. Francois only arrived on Monday.



"We think he (Baby) has all the qualities to play in that position even if he rarely plays there for his club. We have confidence in Benoit Baby."



The hulking Bastareaud, 20, has been in superb form for Stade this season, his rampaging and aggressive style of play making him a firm fans' favourite.



He was called up on Monday, like Trinh-Duc, following the withdrawal of Perpignan's Maxime Mermoz (quadriceps) and has been thrown straight into the starting line-up.



"We had to choose (who to call up) between Mathieu Bastareaud and Damien Traille, but Traille is ill and only played an hour (at the weekend) while Florian Fritz is still suspended," said Lievremont.



"Mathieu has the profile to come into this team and bring his determination and power. He has played well for Stade.



"And we are conscious he has only come into the squad four days before the match."



Bastareaud was called up by Les Bleus in 2007 for the summer tour to New Zealand but had to pull out because of a knee injury.



Marconnet returns to the France team after an absence of close to two years because of a series of injuries.

The popular prop's last appearance for his country came against Wales at the Stade de France in the 2007 Six Nations.



France team to play Wales in the Six Nations championship at the Stade de France on Friday (2000 GMT):

Team: 15-Maxime Medard, 14-Julien Malzieu, 13-Mathieu Bastareaud, 12-Yannick Jauzion, 11-Cedric Heymans, 10-Benoit Baby, 9-Morgan Parra; 8-Imanol Harinordoquy, 7-Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6-Thierry Dusautoir, 5-Sebastien Chabal, 4-Lionel Nallet (captain), 3-Sylvain Marconnet, 2-Dimitri Szarzewski, 1-Fabien Barcella.

Replacements: 16-Benjamin Kayzer, 17-Thomas Domingo, 18-Romain Millo-Chluski, 19-Louis Picamoles, 20-Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 21-Francois Trinh-Duc, 22-Clement Poitrenaud.

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