Richie Mo’unga one of seven changes for New Zealand’s clash with France

Beauden Barrett fails to recover from head knock he suffered in defeat to Ireland

 

Richie Mo’unga will start at outhalf for New Zealand in their autumn international series Test against France in Paris on Saturday after Beauden Barrett failed to recover in time from a knock to the head sustained in the defeat to Ireland last weekend.

Mo’unga is one of seven changes to the starting side, though coach Ian Foster suggests the rotation of players is not a reaction to the disappointment in Dublin.

Mo’unga will be partnered by scrumhalf Aaron Smith, while Quinn Tupaea takes over the number 12 jersey from Anton Lienert-Brown and will form a midfield pairing with Rieko Ioane.

George Bridge and Will Jordan are on the wings, and are part of a back three with fullback Jordie Barrett.

Dane Coles got the nod at hooker and will form a frontrow with props Nepo Laulala and Joe Moody, while captain Sam Whitelock is in the secondrow with Brodie Retallick.

Akira Ioane starts at six and Sam Cane at seven, with Ardie Savea at the back of the scrum.

“We’re really excited about this match, it’s a big statement game for us and we know we have to respond from the Irish performance,” Foster said in a media release from New Zealand Rugby.

“We’ve had to manage the physical and mental load for the players, so have changed things up a bit for this final Test to maximise the energy within the whole group.

“That’s not a reflection on the guys that haven’t been selected, it’s more a chance to bring some fresh players in, and that’s going to be vital for us.”

The match is a dress rehearsal for the opening game of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in Paris, where France have not beaten the All Blacks since 1973.

“They [France] are a young, formidable team building in confidence and they’ve been targeting this match so it’s a huge way for us to finish our tour,” Foster said.

France have restored Romain Ntamack to outhalf to renew his halfback partnership with captain Antoine Dupont at the Stade de France.

Ntamack played at inside centre in Test wins over Argentina and Georgia earlier this month to allow coach Fabien Galthie to field Matthieu Jalibert in the No 10 jersey. The latter drops to the bench.

“We had two Tests to try this association (of Ntamack and Jalibert) out and after a dozen training sessions and those two Tests, we’ve decided to change our line-up,” Galthie told reporters on Thursday.

Gael Fickou and Jonathan Danty have a lot of experience together at centre and Romain and Antoine also have experience together. So we picked that formula to start the game. It’s a performance-oriented choice, not a choice by default.”

Danty takes Ntamack’s place in midfield, where he will partner Fickou, while the back three is made up of wings Gabin Villiere and Damian Penaud, with Melvyn Jaminet at fullback.

France could revert to their tactics of abandoning possession, a strategy Galthie implements to “find space”.

“Sometimes it makes sense to abandon possession, sometimes it’s the most intelligent thing to do. Our goal is to catch the opponents’ defence by surprise, make them feel like they have no guarantees.”

Francois Cros comes into the loose forwards in place of Sekou Makalou, with Anthony Jelonch switching from the number six to seven jersey and Gregory Alldritt at the back of the scrum.

“We have good balance in the third row,” said Galthie. “They’re experienced players with a lot of character.”

Paul Willemse is recalled at lock to partner Cameron Woki, while the frontrow is made up of props Uini Atonio and Cyril Baille, and hooker Peato Mauvaka, who was handed a place in the starting line-up following a brilliant performance against Georgia after he replaced the injured Julien Marchand.

France have beaten Argentina 29-20 and Georgia 41-15 in the autumn series, but Saturday’s challenge will be a considerable step up.

Their last home win against the All Blacks was a 42-33 victory in Marseille in 2000, while their previous win in Paris came in 1973.

New Zealand lost 29-20 against Ireland last weekend but Galthie insisted Les Bleus would not copy the Irish.

“It was a different game . . . we’re France, not Ireland,” he said. “We have our own history that we’ve started two years ago. Our opponents won’t be the same ones who were in Dublin last year.”

FRANCE (v New Zealand , Stade de France, Saturday, 8pm): Melvyn Jaminet; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (capt); Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Uini Atonio; Cameron Woki, Paul Willemse; Francois Cros, Anthony Jelonch, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Gaetan Barlot, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, -Maxime Lucu, Matthieu Jalibert.

NEW ZEALAND: Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala; Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock (capt); Akira Ioane, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea.

Replacements: Samisoni Taukei’aho, George Bower, Ofa Tuungafasi, Tupou Vaa’i, Shannon Frizell, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, David Havili.

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