x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Coach Lievremont rings the changes

The French play down their favourites tag and have reshuffled last week's squad that will now face a New Zealand side who are out looking for revenge.

Lock forward Sebastien Chabal has been recalled to the France team as one of seven changes.
Lock forward Sebastien Chabal has been recalled to the France team as one of seven changes.

France have made seven changes to the team that defeated the world champions South Africa last weekend for Saturday's game against New Zealand. The coach Marc Lievremont has brought in centres Yannick Jauzion and David Marty and Maxime Medard on the wing, as well as Fulgence Ouedraogo and Julien Bonnaire in the back row. Lock Sebastien Chabal and prop Sylvain Marconnet also come into the team.

Cedric Heymans, Yann David, Lionel Nallet and Nicolas Mas drop to the bench while Maxime Mermoz, Imanol Harinordoquy and Louis Picamoles have been ruled out because of injury. A tense Lievremont declined to discuss his reasons for reshuffling a front five that dominated the Springboks' pack in Toulouse. "I'm not going to comment on our choices," he said. "It was not easy to select this team. I'll let you comment and discuss our choices according to your mood, your sensibility or the policy of your media."

Lievremont sought to play down the favourites tag being put on his team before Saturday's game. "I read France were favourite, maybe we are, but I can assure you that New Zealand are back to their best without even mentioning that they will be out for revenge," he added. France, who beat New Zealand 27-22 in Dunedin in June, come into Saturday's game on the back of wins over South Africa and Samoa while New Zealand have beaten Wales, Italy and England since arriving in Europe on tour.

"Some people are questioning the All Blacks' recent results but they are No 1 again," Lievremont said. "Some people are saying their scrummaging is under par but we fear them in all sectors of the game and their leaders, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, are in top form. "We played intelligently against South Africa: we'll have to raise the level of our intelligence, our commitment and the intensity of our game to record a third win in a row for the first time in two years."

The Wales coach Warren Gatland has made one change from the team that beat Argentina for Saturday's autumn internationals finale against Australia in Cardiff. The Sale Sharks' Dwayne Peel takes over from Gareth Cooper at scrum-half and will win his 72nd cap. Gatland's selection means that nine players will have started all four of Wales' autumn Tests. Last weekend Wales beat Argentina 33-16 while Australia were upset 9-8 by Scotland.

Gatland said: "We were pretty pleased with the performance against Argentina. "We matched them up front, our defence held up well and we are starting to show a more clinical edge in attack. "There is still improvement left in us, and we feel we need to go up a couple more gears if we are to achieve what we want against Australia, but we are coming to the end of the series and the players feel they are starting to get into their stride."

* With agencies