Michalak named at outhalf
France's Thierry Dusautoir (right) speaks to team-mate Frederic Michalak at a training session at the Rugby Union National Centre in Marcoussis, south of Paris. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters
Rugby:France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has made three changes to his starting line-up for the Six Nations clash against Ireland at the Aviva stadium on Saturday (5.0), the most contentious of which is a recall for outhalf Frederic Michalak, who has struggled for form in the tournament.
Michalak, was a second half replacement for Francois Trinh Duc against England, producing an unimpressive shift that included three intercepted passes. Saint Andre’s decision to replace Trinh Duc – the latter was playing well – was mystifying in itself.
Ireland’s try scoring nemesis over the years, Vincent Clerc is on one wing but the French coach has opted to make a change on the other flank with Maxime Medard preferred to Benjamin Fall. Florian Fritz takes over from Matthieu Bastareaud in the centre. Dimitri Szarzewski was ruled out with a knee injury so his place on the bench is taken by Guilhem Guirado.
Saint-Andre said of the Michalak and Parra combination: “They have already played together against Samoa in November. For the Ireland match, we wanted to have two goal-kickers. Fred will be the number one kicker. Morgan will take the kicks from further away because he has five metres more in his legs.
“But we are still in a construction phase and it isn’t extraordinary for us to look to test the half-back axis.” Maxime Machenaud and Trinh-Duc will be raring to be involved off the bench with Saint-Andre pointing out they remain firmly in his plans.
“For nine matches, we have been using the same four players,” he said. “In November we used the Machenaud-Michalak combination a lot. Maxime (Machenaud) has played a lot in recent months, he is young and he is discovering the highest level. Morgan has played excellent matches for France and for Clermont.
“We need to find an 80-minute performance. At the moment we aren’t doing that. The role of the France team is to win in style. But in our current situation, we’d sign for even a 3-0 win straightaway.”
Saint-Andre said that putting versatile back Medard on the wing was a sensible step, given the options at his disposal. Medard suffered a serious knee ligament injury during last year’s Six Nations clash with Scotland that ruled him out of the autumn Tests, but he is fully fit again.
Saint-Andre said, according to L’Equipe: “Maxime will give us his left foot. He will alternate between the wing and full-back according to our needs. But I would rather he starts on the wing because it’s in that position that he has played most often since his return from injury. And Yoann Huget has been very satisfactory at fullback, notably in defence on the high balls.”
France:Yoann Huget; Vincent Clerc, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard; Frederic Michalak, Morgan Parra; Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser, Nicolas Mas; Christophe Samson, Yoann Maestri; Yannick Nyanga, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Louis Picamoles. Replacements:Guilhem Guirado, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Antonie Claassen, Maxime Machenaud, Francois Trinh-Duc, Mathieu Bastareaud