New look France seek Fresh start at Scots expense

With a new coach, a new captain and four new caps in their starting line-up, France will attempt to bury the anguish of last year’s World Cup disappointment in the Murrayfield mud here on Sunday.


The line-up named by Marc Lievremont to face Scotland is unrecognisable from the one that lost to England in the World Cup semi-final, with the most eye-catching change being the promotion of Montpellier’s exciting young flyhalf, Francois Trinh-Duc, to the starting line-up.


The 21-year, whose paternal grandfather came from Vietnam, was not even a regular on his club’s bench at this time last year.


But he will nevertheless start the match in what is undoubtedly a gamble by the new coach.


Lievremont has also introduced a pair of new props, in the muscular form of Sale’s Lionel Faure and Julien Brugnault of Dax, and a new wing in Julien Malzieu of Clermont.


By his own admission, Lievremont has not yet had enough time with his squad to get them playing the way he would like, and that influenced his selection.


“We’ve concentrated on the coherence of the team as a whole, rather than the individual ability of each player in their position,” the new coach explained.


“We had six new players in the squad but we could not take the risk of starting them all in Scotland.” Lievremont suffered a setback earlier in the week when centre Florian Fritz, who had been named in his starting XV, broke a leg in training. Perpignan’s David Marty is expected to start in his place.


As befits a former teacher, Scotland coach Frank Hadden has a reputation for doing his homework on the opposition.


But even he admits he is not sure what to expect from the new-look French.


“Normally we spend a lot more time talking about what we expect from the opposition, but in this case we have had to focus far more on what we want to do ourselves,” Hadden said.


The big shock in Scotland’s selection was the demotion of former captain Chris Paterson to the bench, reflecting the 29-year-old’s struggle to breaking into his club Gloucester’s starting XV.


In Paterson’s absence, Australian-born flyhalf Dan Parks will be asked to take on goalkicking responsibilities, although he will be hard-pressed to match the performance of Paterson, who converted all 17 of his kicks during the World Cup.


Hadden has also left out three other recent regulars in the shape of forward Gavin Kerr and fullback Hugo Southwell, who are both on the bench, and Ally Hogg, who misses out altogether.


The coach believes the fact that he is in a position to drop a player like Paterson, who has won 81 caps for his country, bodes well for Scotland’s chances of making an impact on this year’s tournament.


“There have been more people in the mix and more genuine competition for places than I’ve ever come across before,” he said. “We’ve had to make the sort of decisions which are normally reserved for the English coach in terms of the options available.


“I’m not saying we’ve got as many options as he has, or the French indeed, but I would say we have as many options as the Welsh and Irish now, and that’s a nice place for us to be.”

 

Hadden, who has given a debut to the flamboyant Edinburgh centre Nick De Luca, added: “The most important thing is to get the balance right between continuity and change – you have got to be careful not to go too far one way or the other.”

Sapa-AFP SixNationsweb.co.uk

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