Noves throws down gauntlet with six changes
France coach Guy Noves has quickly adopted his predecessors' penchant for selectorial inconsistency by making six changes from the side who defeated Italy 23-21 for the visit of Ireland tomorrow.
In a quite gloriously Gallic refusal to learn the lessons of the past, Noves has chopped and changed at the first opportunity. Gone are props Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous, who many observers would rate as the best pairing in the Championship. Into the fray step the chunkier units of Uini Atonio and Jefferson Poirot.
Also in the pack, Alexandre Flanquart comes into the second row while Damien Chouly shifts to No 8 to cover for the injured Louis Picamoles with Yacouba Camara gaining a first start on the flank. "We will see if our back-row can match up to Ireland," Noves said. "Yacouba is playing only his second Test. Is he up to the challenge? We'll see."
As endorsements go, that will not fall into the ringing category. Behind the scrum, there are two changes, with Teddy Thomas replacing Hugo Bonneval, a try-scorer against Italy, on the wing, while centre Maxime Mermoz comes in for Gael Fikou, who is absent for personal reasons.
Both Mermoz and Thomas are vastly talented, but were never fully trusted by Philippe Saint-Andre, the previous coach.
"Teddy has a certain talent, I've been watching him for the past few months," Noves said. "He has the chance to make an impression in this young squad. But this doesn't call into question Hugo's talent."
Surprisingly, Sebastien Bezy, the player who most of the French press assumed would be dropped after his poor kicking display against Italy, retains his place at scrum-half. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
France (v Ireland) - M Medard; T Thomas, M Mermoz, J Danty, V Vakatawa; J Plisson, S Bezy; J Poirot, G Guirado (capt), U Atonio; A Flanquart, Y Maestri; W Lauret, Y Camara, D Chouly. Reps: C Chat, R Slimani, E Ben Arous, P Jedrasiak, L Goujon, M Machenaud, J-M Doussain, H Bonneval