Predictable line-ups for France Test in New Zealand

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The Independent Online

France have followed the All Blacks' example by necessity, naming a predictable starting line-up for the first rugby Test in Dunedin on Saturday.

However, the tourists' bench is yet to be clarified, head coach Marc Lievremont named a nine-man bench notable for the inclusion of late-arriving props Nicolas Mas and Thomas Domingo.

Mas and Domingo joined the squad only on late Monday after playing for Perpignan and Clermont Auvergne in the French domestic final in Paris last weekend.

The pair will be given another 48 hours to prove whether they have recovered from the exertion of the final -- and the arduous journey to Auckland.

Lievremont included only one new cap in the starting line-up, Leicester-based halfback Julien Dupuy, mirroring the All Blacks who yesterday named second rower Isaac Ross as their only debutant.

Dupuy may be untried at international level but the 25-year-old has recent big match experience in the Heineken Cup and Guinness Premiership finals.

He is also entrusted with the goal kicking.

"He has been very good with the forwards in practice and we are sure he can make the decisions on the ground," Lievremont said.

Dupuy will combine with first five-eighth Francois Trinh-Duc in what is a brand new scrum base pairing.

Although they are still establishing a rapport, the back division is still brimming with experience in the form of second five-eighth Damien Traille plus wings Cedric Heymans and Vincent Clerc.

Five members of the 22-man squad were involved in the World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff 20 months ago, while second rower Pascal Pape, reserve lock/loose forward Sebastien Chabal and flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo were part of the French side hammered 61-10 in Wellington when the teams last met here two years ago.

Lievremont said the starting line-up was straight forward to select given the five players involved in the Top 14 final were delayed in joining the squad.

Only three first choice players were originally unavailable to tour through injury -- captain and lock Lionel Nallet, No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy and halfback Morgan Parra.

Experienced back Aurelien Rougerie and flanker Julien Bonnaire were ruled out after being injured playing against Perpignan.

France have won only three tests in 21 attempts on New Zealand soil since their first tour here in 1961.

They won at Eden Park on Bastille Day, 1979, while the 1994 side were victorious in Christchurch and again at Auckland.

The losses include the inaugural World Cup final in 1987, also in Auckland. Since then, however, the Tricolores have proved an irritant for the All Blacks at the sport's global showcase by ending New Zealand's campaign at the semifinals in 1999 and quarterfinals 20 months ago.

Lievremont was placing no significance on the fact New Zealand will field a side missing the quality of Richie McCaw, Daniel Carter, Ali Williams and Rodney So'oialo.

"They are missing some players but we know the depth of New Zealand rugby. They should have no worries about the quality of their team."


Maxime Medard, Cedric Heymans, Mathieu Bastareaud, Vincent Clerc, Damien Traille, Francois Trinh-Duc, Julien Dupuy, Louis Picamoles, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Romain Millo-Chluski, Pascal Pape, Sylvain Marconnet, William Servat, Fabien Barcella.

Reserves: Dimitri Szarzewski, Nicolas Mas, Thomas Domingo, Sebastien Chabal, Remy Martin, Julien Puricelli, Dimitri Yachvili, Yannick Jauzion, Alexis Palisson (two to be omitted).

This story was sourced from The New Zealand Herald.