France to be without some stars for NZ 1st Test

France coach Philippe Saint Andre says Les Bleus will field a “competitive” team in the first test against New Zealand next Saturday but has ruled out players who will take part in this weekend’s French Top 14 final between Toulon and Castres.

Eight members of Saint Andre’s touring squad will play in the final on Saturday before joining their teammates in New Zealand to prepare for three tests matches against the All Blacks over the next three weekends.

Saint Andre said of those eight players only flyhalves Frederic Michalak and Remi Tales would be considered for first test selection. He told reporters in Auckland “95 percent of the guys that are here already will play the first test.”

“Two flyhalves will play in the final so I’m sure one of those two will be in the squad,” Saint Andre said.

“All the rest you need to manage carefully.

“After the final the guys will celebrate the title with their mates at the club and to come here two days after … it is difficult. Recovery and preparation needs to be wise.

“For the first test we don’t have the eight finalists so I will put a team together to be competitive. We know the first test will be very tough.”

The veteran Michalak is thought likely to start at flyhalf in Saturday’s test at Eden Park, where New Zealand and France met in the 2011 World Cup final.

“He plays more scrumhalf for Toulon but 90 percent of the flyhalves in France are foreigners so we need to find guys who can do the job for the French team,” Saint Andre said.

“Frederic Michalak is at the moment the best in the French team.”

Saint Andre said the intrusion of the French club final into the international season was unavoidable.

“It is eight of your best players but that is the system,” he said.

“I knew that was the situation when I took the job so I can’t complain.

“I have to try pull together a team that will be competitive in one week.

“To show New Zealand we can compete and front up during a three test series is a huge challenge. It has never happened in French rugby to play three tests in New Zealand. It’s a big, big ask.”

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