France aim to build on Samoa win against all-change Australia


France will aim to build on their crushing victory over Samoa with a morale-boosting win over Australia on Saturday.

Guy Noves’ team stormed to a 52-8 thrashing of the Pacific Islanders last week and have seen their hopes of victory at the Stade de France boosted by a large rotation in the Wallaby team.

Australia coach Michael Cheika has made 12 changes to his side, with an eye on the Grand Slam of the Home Nations.

Will Genia, Henry Speight and Tevita Kuridrani retain their starting spots from last week’s narrow 23-22 victory over Scotland while David Pocock shifts to the number seven jersey and will captain the side with usual skipper Stephen Moore named on the bench.

Israel Folau, Michael Hooper, Reece Hodge, Sekope Kepu and Dane Haylett-Petty are notable absentees from the match-day squad, with four run-on debutants beside Kyle Godwin, who will a first cap in the centres.

After the France game, the Wallabies, who kicked off their tour with a 32-8 victory over Wales, go on to play Ireland and England. The last time Australia claimed a Grand Slam was back in 1984.

Noves made five changes to his team, drafting in Jean-Marc Doussain at fly-half in place of the injured Francois Trinh-Duc, with Camille Lopez named on the bench.

Among the forwards, Toulon’s Charles Ollivon replaces the injured Loann Goujon at blindside, while Sebastien Vahaamahina starts at lock alongside Yoann Maestri after putting in an impressive cameo performance off the bench against the Samoans. No 8 Louis Picamoles and openside Kevin Gourdan both start after having been rested in the week.

Cyrille Baille gets his first run-on for the Tricolors at loosehead prop alongside hooker and captain Guilhem Guirado and New Zealand-born tighthead Uini Atonio.

The two teams share one particularity: they will both field a set of Fijian-born wingers.

Noa Nakaitaci and Virimi Vakatawa start for France against former compatriots Sefanaia Naivalu and Henry Speight, with Taqele Naiyaravoro also named on the Wallaby bench.

And Noves went on the defensive when quizzed about the Fijians in his team.

“What concerns me is whether a player is eligible for selection. I’ll pick him if he deserves it,” the former long-time Toulouse coach said, deflecting talk of deficiencies in the national structure.

“You’d need two hours to speak about the future of French rugby. I can but I don’t know if you have enough time. It’s not a question of the reserve (of wingers). They are French for me.

“Whether they’re white, grey or black, these are the men who will put on a jersey and defend a nation because they have been welcomed (in France)…”

Wallabies’ Cheika said he felt the time was right for a reshuffle in his team to give the next generation a chance of a run-out.

“It’s the right time to let a guy prepare as a starter,” said Cheika, who resoundingly pads off any talk about the Grand Slam.

“Sometimes on the finishers, it’s hard to know what you’re going to get because you don’t know when you’re going to go on, it’s hard to prepare.”

© 2016 AFP

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