Wednesday, September 12, 2007

France coach Bernard Laporte has made 13 changes

France coach Bernard Laporte has made 13 changes, one of them positional, for Sunday's World Cup Pool D match against Namibia after the upset 17-12 loss to Argentina in the tournament opener.

Only prop Pieter de Villiers, inside centre Damien Traille, and Cedric Heymans, who moves from fullback to his favourite position on the wing, have been retained.

Flyhalf Frederic Michalak and lock Sebastien Chabal are included in the starting lineup with the hosts now in danger of an early exit or a clash with favourites New Zealand in the Cardiff quarter-final.

Laporte told a news conference on Wednesday the reshuffle was not intended to punish his players.

"It's not a sanction. I don't like the word sanctions. Our players are not school children," he said.

"We said we would win the World Cup with 30 players. We can't tell the players that there is a competition among the squad and keep the same team."


The French coach said 34-year-old captain Raphael Ibanez, who will be on the bench, remained "the natural leader of the team".

"Raphael is not 25 any more and we have to spare him," he added.

Of the other team leaders, lock Fabien Pelous and centre Yannick Jauzion will also be on the bench while flanker Serge Betsen will watch the game from the stand.

Scrumhalf Jean-Baptiste Elissalde will take over the captaincy, playing alongside Michalak who replaces the injured David Skrela at flyhalf.

Wing Vincent Clerc, centre David Marty and fullback Clement Poitrenaud have been included.

France will field a new backrow comprising Julien Bonnaire at number eight and flankers Yannick Nyanga and Thierry Dusautoir.

Chabal, who came on as a replacement against the Pumas, will start the game in the second row with Lionel Nallet.

"We know we have to win our next three games against, Nambia, Ireland and Georgia and pick up all the bonus points available," Laporte said.

"The game against Namibia will not be an easy one. We have to set the record straight."

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