MARCOUSSIS, France, March 13 – France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Monday made six changes to his squad to take on Grand Slam-chasing Wales for the final day of the Six Nations tournament in Cardiff.
The changes for this Saturday’s game follow the shattering 24-22 loss to England at the Stade de France on Sunday, a result that wrecked French hopes of successfully defending the title they won last year.
In come lock Julien Pierre, flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo, scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili, centre Florian Fritz, winger Alexis Palisson and full-back Jean-Marcellin Butin, who at 20 is called up to the international squad for the first time.
Paying the price of the loss to the English are lock and former skipper Lionel Nallet, scrum-half Julien Dupuy, centre Maxime Mermoz and winger Julien Malzieu, while winger Vincent Clerc was not considered due to injury.
“It’s sort of a page that’s turning,” said Saint-Andre.
“There are players injured, choices we made, certain players who are very tired as well after three consecutive high-level matches.
“Like Lionel Nallet for example, a monument of French rugby, an exemplary player.
“We would have liked for the veterans to have an exceptional celebration Saturday in Cardiff. Unfortunately it’s not possible. It’s difficult but we have to think about the future.”
“I wanted to really thank Lionel Nallet regarding his spirit, his professionalism.
“I was lucky to coach him at Bourgoin and again in the France team. He knew that we had a sort of a deal together – if we played a final at Cardiff, he would have continued the adventure. Unfortunately the adventure finishes here.”
Saint-Andre said that the decision to leave out Mermoz, 25, was strategic.
“It’s more a strategic choice regarding the Welsh. We brought on two players who can play wing-back (Buttin and Palisson) while knowing that we have solutions at centre with Wesley Fofana, who started at centre and finished on the wing,” he said.
Florian Fritz was also given the nod ahead of Toulouse teammate Yann David, who suffered a groin injury two weeks ago and is not 100 percent fit.
And Saint-Andre warned his side would not be taking their foot off the pedal against Wales who will win their second Six Nations title and Grand Slam of coach Warren Gatland’s four-year reign if they win at the Millennium Stadium.
“There is the pride that comes with playing for your country and for the France team. Pride also at trying to take the Grand Slam off the Welsh in front of their public. We’re going to be in a packed stadium with an incredible atmosphere.
“For them (the Welsh) it’s a chance for revenge for the (World Cup) semi-final. We have to be courageous, with a lot of self-sacrifice, but I’m sure that the 23 French players are going to do everything to play a great match on Saturday in Cardiff.”
Saint-Andre’s starting lineup will be named on Thursday.
The France squad to play Wales on the final day of the Six Nations tournament in Cardiff on Saturday:-
David Attoub (Stade Français), Vincent Debaty (Clermont), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse), William Servat (Toulouse), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Français), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Pascal Papé (Stade Français), Julien Pierre (Clermont), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt)
Morgan Parra (Clermont), Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz), Lionel Beauxis (Toulouse), François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Jean-Marcellin Buttin (Clermont), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Florian Fritz (Toulouse), Alexis Palisson (Toulon), Clément Poitrenaud (Toulouse), Aurélien Rougerie (Clermont)