France make six changes for Ireland

Teddy Thomas comes into the France starting line up

France head coach Guy Noves has brought in winger Teddy Thomas as one of six changes to his team for this weekend’s Six Nations match with Ireland.

Thomas comes into the starting line up replacing Hugo Bonneval for the clash to be played in Paris on Saturday.

France escaped with a 23-21 Six Nations opening victory over Italy last weekend at Stade de France and the coach is looking for a vastly improved performance.

Aside from Racing 92’s Thomas, Noves has also called up centre Maxime Mermoz, and forwards Jefferson Poirot, Uini Atonio, Alexandre Flanquart and Yacouba Camara.

The 22-year-old Thomas makes his return after a year-long absence following an injury he picked up against Ireland in last year’s Six Nations.

He shone on his France debut in November 2014 with three tries and enhanced his stature with another standout showing and a try against Australia.

A series of niggling injuries has meant little playing time for him this season.

“Teddy has had a perfect attitude over the past fortnight,” observed Noves.

“He has recently returned to competition. We have to introduce more talent into our group and so he has the opportunity to show that he’s ready to seize his chance.”

Two of the changes were forced upon Noves, with centre Gael Fickou (replaced by Mermoz) absent for personal reasons and a serious hamstring injury to No.8 Louis Picamoles.

Picamoles had to come off after just 15 minutes last Saturday.

His position is taken by Damien Chouly, with the 21-year-old Camara coming in as flanker.

Noves has dropped props Eddy Ben Arous and Rabah Slimani to the bench, preferring to deploy the power of Poirot and Antonio against the Irish instead.

For Poirot this marks a first start after proving his mettle as a replacement in the slender win against the Italians.

The sixth change involves Flanquart, who starts on the second row at the expense of Paul Jedrasiek.

On the bench coming in for Picamoles Noves has named six-capped Loann Goujon.

The France coach discounted the notion that any of the unforced changes could be regarded as a “punishment”.

“We don’t have a starting XV and replacements, the term ‘replacement’ is not appropriate in professional rugby,” he ventured.

“There is always an atmosphere to create, to challenge yourself but also the desire to see players in the squad evolve.”

Noves is counting on the change in personnel to help pull off a first victory over Ireland since 2011.

France

Maxime Medard; Teddy Thomas, Maxime Mermoz, Jonathan Danty, Virimi Vakatawa; Jules Plisson, Sebastien Bezy; Damien Chouly, Yacouba Camara, Wenceslas Lauret; Yoann Maestri, Alexandre Flanquart; Uini Atonio, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Jefferson Poirot

Replacements: Camille Chat, Rabah Slimani, Eddy Ben Arous, Paul Jedrasiak, Loann Goujon, Maxime Machenaud, Jean-Marc Doussain, Hugo Bonneval

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