Saint-Andre looks to Dusautoir's 'experience and ferocity'
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre says his team will benefit from the “experience and ferocity” of Thierry Dusautoir after the Toulouse flanker was brought back into Les Bleus’ starting XV for tomorrow’s Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome.
Former France captain Dusautoir (31) missed last year’s summer and autumn campaigns after suffering a serious knee injury, but is selected in the back row as he replaces Yannick Nyanga.
Saint-Andre announced lock Pascal Pape would retain the captaincy after doing an outstanding job in November, despite having 2011 IRB Player of the Year Dusautoir back at full fitness.
But the coach is in no doubt of Dusautoir’s worth to the team as he prepares to make his first international outing since a home win over Wales in last year’s Six Nations.
“He’s worked very hard to come back from his injury,” Saint-Andre said.
“We saw during his preparation that he had worked a lot while he was injured.”
“He’s a big, tough tackler. Against a tough team like Italy, because they are so strong in the pack, we will need to defend well. We’ll need his experience and his ferocity.”
Dusautoir’s return is one of six changes from the side that beat Samoa, although in announcing his team Saint-Andre said: “The backbone of the team is the one that started the November Tests.”
Injury to Bruce Dulin sees Yoann Huget step into the fullback jersey, with Benjamin Fall starting on the wing in the absence of Vincent Clerc.
Maxime Machenaud edges out Morgan Parra for the scrumhalf jersey while loosehead prop Yannick Forestier and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski come in for Thomas Domingo and Benjamin Kayser in the front row.
Frederic Michalak retains the outhalf jersey despite playing his club rugby for Toulon at scrumhalf.
France will be seeking revenge after suffering a humiliating 22-21 defeat in Rome in 2011, and Saint-Andre is adamant there will be no repeat of that result this weekend.
“France were the favourites against Italy two years ago,” he said. “It was a tsunami. We will have to be focused on this game now. We have won four matches in a row, let’s make it five.”