Bastareaud to start against Wales
Rugby:France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has made two changes to the team beaten by Italy last weekend for Saturday’s Six Nations clash against Wales in Paris. Powerful Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud replaces Florian Fritz, while Bastareaud’s club colleague Jocelino Suta takes over from injured captain Pascal Pape in the second row.
Flanker Thierry Dusautoir will skipper the side as Les Bleus look to bounce back from their shock 23-18 defeat in Rome. Saint-Andre has resisted any temptation to tinker with his side elsewhere, notably at half-back, where Frederic Michalak and Maxime Machenaud remain his preferred pairing.
Bastareaud started his last game with Les Bleus in a 2010 Six Nations match against England. He has been rewarded for his strong performances with Toulon, who lead the French Top 14. The 24-year-old had been overlooked in recent years because of poor form after being omitted following off-the-pitch troubles in 2009.
Saint-Andre otherwise kept faith with the team who were outplayed in the shock in Rome.
"You say you don't change a winning team. Well, we say we don't change a losing team. The players need to bounce back," he said. "We keep this group so we can find collective solutions, not individual solutions."
Saint-Andre explained that Fritz's relegation to the bench was not a punishment.
"It's a strategic choice. We wanted a 10-12-13 liaison between players from the same club," he said. "Florian will play (at some point), that's certain, and he will bring his energy."
Wales captain Sam Warburton has been ruled out of the clash due to a a stinger injury, a problem which normally affects the shoulder. Ryan Jones takes over as skipper and wears the number six shirt, with Justin Tipuric starting at openside flanker.
Aaron Shingler misses out following last weekend’s 30-22 defeat against Ireland, while one other change sees Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard come in for Matthew Rees.
Jones will be leading Wales for a record 30th time at the Stade de France, while Hibbard returns from injury to partner Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones in the front row.
Interim coach Rob Howley has kept faith with the second row which lost to Ireland, with Jamie Roberts poised to win his 50th cap. Shingler replaces Tipuric on the replacements’ bench and Lou Reed replaces Olly Kohn among the reserves.
Howley said: “We didn’t start the tournament the way we wanted to on the weekend but Saturday is a chance for us to go out and show what we can do. We know that we will have to start well and start the way we finished the game against Ireland.
“It’s disappointing to have Sam ruled out but Ryan comes in as captain with a wealth of experience. Playing France in Paris is always a huge match but we have worked hard as a squad this week and want to deliver a performance we know we are capable of.”
France(v Wales): Y Huget (Toulouse); W Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), M Mermoz (Toulon), M Bastareaud (Toulon), B Fall (Racing Metro); F Michalak (Toulon), M Machenaud (Racing Metro); Y Forestier (Castres), D Szarzewski (Racing Metro), N Mas (Perpignan), J Suta (Toulon), Y Maestri (Toulouse), F Ouedraogo (Montpellier), T Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), L Picamoles (Toulouse). Replacements:B Kayser (Clermont Auvergne), V Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), L Ducalon (Castres), R Taofifenua (Perpignan), D Chouly (Clermont Auvergne), M Parra (Clermont Auvergne), F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), F Fritz (Toulouse).
Wales:L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Toulon), R Hibbard (Ospreys), A Jones (Ospreys), A Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), I Evans (Ospreys), R Jones (Ospreys, capt), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons). Replacements:K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Bath), C Mitchell (Exeter), L Reed (Cardiff Blues), A Shingler (Scarlets), L Williams (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).