Dusautoir returns for France vs Italy in Six Nations

Flanker Thierry Dusautoir has been recalled and Yoann Huget named at fullback by France coach Philippe Saint-Andre in his side to face Italy in their Six Nations opener on Sunday.


The 31-year-old Dusautoir won the last of his 54 caps against Wales in a 16-9 home win during last year’s tournament, where he was an ever-present, but then faced a long spell out following a serious knee injury and lost the captaincy to lock Pascal Pape.


“He’s worked very hard to come back from his injury. He’s a great, tough, tackler. In a difficult context like Italy, because they are so strong in the pack, we will need to defend well,” Saint-Andre said. “We’ll need his experience and his ferocity in the one-on-ones and in the ruck battles.”


Huget normally plays as a left winger, but Saint-Andre opted to switch him, picking Wesley Fofana and Benjamin Fall on the wings in an inexperienced backline, with prolific try-scorer Vincent Clerc sidelined with a thigh injury.


“Even though he plays on the wing for Toulouse, he has played fullback a few times before for them,” Saint-Andre said.


The mercurial Frederic Michalak orchestrates France’s attacks from flyhalf alongside scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who wins his fifth cap.


Italy beat France 22-21 at home in a shock upset two years ago, and Saint-Andre is expecting another equally tough test.


“It’s going to be very intense against Italy,” he said.


Florian Fritz was preferred to Mathieu Bastareaud in the midfield alongside Maxime Mermoz. Scrumhalf Morgan Parra and flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc – for many years France’s established halfback pairing under former coach Marc Lievremont – are both on the bench.


Saint-Andre’s team has won its last four tests, including victories home and away over Argentina and a 33-6 thrashing of Australia.


“The players from the November tests form the spine of the team, with Thierry returning,” Saint-Andre said.


One blow for Saint-Andre was the absence of Clerc, who will have to wait a while before adding to his 34 international tries. Saint-Andre shifted Fofana from center to take Clerc’s spot on the right wing, with the pacey Fall starting on the left flank for his fourth international cap.


“He knows our system of playing very well and his versatility gives us a lot of options,” Saint-Andre said. “He has looked very good in training.”


France:


Yoann Huget, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Mermoz, Florian Fritz, Benjamin Fall, Frederic Michalak, Maxime Machenaud; Louis Picamoles, Thierry Dusautoir, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape (captain), Nicolas Mas, Dimitri Szarzewski, Yannick Forestier.


Reserves: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Romain Taofifenua, Damien Chouly, Morgan Parra, Francois Trinh-Duc, Mathieu Bastareaud.

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