Uncapped French fly-half Jules Plisson will make debut against England
Flyhalf Jules Plisson was named to start against England in France's Six Nations opening game on Saturday as manager Philippe Saint-Andre continues his experiment with the Les Bleus's halfback pairing.
The 22-year-old Stade Francais player will be alongside scrumhalf Jean-Marc Doussain as Saint-Andre will try out his 10th different halfback pairing since he took over from Marc Lievremont after the 2011 World Cup.
"Jules was the obvious choice as he only played 10 minutes with Stade Francais (in the Top 14) last Friday and we did a full session with him at number 10 while Francois Trinh-Duc only started training on Monday," Saint-Andre, who has to make do with the absence of the injured flyhalves Remi Tales and Camille Lopez, told a news conference on Thursday.
"And Jean-Marc Doussain has worked at number 9 last week." Scrumhalf Morgan Parra has been ruled out of the game but he could make his return at some point in the championship as he has recovered from a knee injury. Plisson is the only uncapped player to start, although in the second row, lock Alexandre Flanquart has just two France games under his belt.
"It's part of our strategy, England has tall players in the lineup. We also wanted to have two players who play together all year (Flanquart and captain Pascal Pape)," Saint-Andre explained.
"We have an experienced player and a player who has excellent jumping abilities."
His choice sends Yoann Maestri, who is about 20 kilos heavier than Flanquart, to the bench.
France will also rely on the power of centres Wesley Fofana and Mathieu Bastareaud as Florian Fritz, who was the first choice at number 13 in last year's tests, is out of the Six Nations with an arm injury.
For a team who won only two games in 2013, starting the Six Nations against England may not be the best schedule.
"It's also the best way to really enter the competition," said Saint-Andre, who is without the injured Thierry Dusautoir, his usual skipper, for the tournament.
France team to play England: B Dulin (Castres); Y Huget (Toulouse), M Bastareaud (Toulon), W Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), M Medard (Toulouse); J Plisson (Stade Francais), J-M Doussain (Toulouse); T Domingo (Clermont Auvergne), B Kayser (Clermont Auvergne), N Mas (Montpellier), A Flanquart (Stade Francais), P Pape (Stade Francais, capt), Y Nyanga (Toulouse), B Le Roux (Racing Metro), L Picamoles (Toulouse).
Replacements: D Szarzewski (RacingMetro), Y Forestier (Castres), R Slimani (Stade Francais), Y Maestri (Toulouse), A Burban (Stade Francais), D Chouly (Clermont Auvergne), M Machenaud (Racing Metro), G Fickou (Toulouse).