Saturday 23 September 2017

Michalak return tests faith of French fans

David Kelly

David Kelly

Although testing the faith of French supporters by restoring out-half Freddy Michalak to his starting line-up, coach Philippe Saint-Andre has re-affirmed his belief in his winless side ahead of tomorrow's Six Nations clash.

Michalak, who has admitted to running on empty after virtually two years of non-stop rugby, replaces Francois Trinh-Duc, who dovetailed so well with Morgan Parra against England a fortnight ago.

"I have spoken with Francois and he knows why he has been left out, I prefer to explain these things in private," said Saint-Andre.

"I've read that he wasn't happy with his defensive performance and Frederic had been excellent in November. It's not a punishment.

"Michalak and Parra have already played together against Samoa in November. For the Ireland match, we want to have two goal-kickers.

"Fred will be the No 1 kicker, Morgan will take the kicks from further away because he has five to 10m more in his legs. We are still in construction and it isn't extraordinary for us to look to test the half-back axis. We need to find an 80-minute performance.

"The role of the France team is to win and win in style. But right now, if we could sign for a 3-0 win we'd sign straightaway.

"We believe in the team. We're going to see the true face of this team. It's up to us to raise our heads.

"We've had a good week of training and a good session this morning.

"We have to force our destiny, we have missed a lot of realism in the first three matches. We have to score when we're on top. We have to be better defensively.

"We need to win the match with lots of appetite, lots of ambition, and a performance of a very high level."

Florian Fritz replaces Mathieu Bastareaud at centre, while wing Maxime Medard, who has scored a try against Ireland every time he's played them, returns in place of Benjamin Fall.

Medard is expected to interchange often with full-back Yoann Huget.

FRANCE – Y Huget; V Clerc, F Fritz, W Fofana, M Medard; F Michalak, M Parra; T Domingo, B Kayser, N Mas, C Samson, Y Maestri, Y Nyanga, T Dusautoir, L Picamoles. Reps: G Guirado, V Debaty, L Ducalcon, S Vahaamahina, A Claassen, M Machenaud, F Trinh-Duc, M Bastareaud.

Irish Independent

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