x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

France's four-pronged strategy for England in crucial Six Nations tie

France make four changes as they prepare for Saturday's huge Six Nations tie at Twickenham against England – a match which could decide the title.

Francois Trinh-Duc, France's fly-half, passes the ball during training yesterday.
Francois Trinh-Duc, France's fly-half, passes the ball during training yesterday.

Marc Lievremont, the France coach, has shaken up his starting line-up for Saturday's match against England in the Six Nations, making four changes by recalling Sebastien Chabal, Dimitri Yachvili, Yannick Jauzion and Vincent Clerc.

Lievremont, renowned for his propensity to alter his line-ups, made the changes after a laboured 25-22 win in Ireland.

"It's good to shake up the hierarchy and to get lads involved who deserve to be," Lievremont said. "Vincent Clerc's been feeling impatient sitting on the bench. We decided to get him involved."

Yachvili replaces Morgan Parra at scrum-half, despite Parra kicking five penalties against Ireland, and Jauzion replaces Damien Traille at centre.

"Dimitri did well both times he came on. He's in good form right now, it seemed normal to reward him," Lievremont said. "Morgan is feeling less confident at the moment."

Maxime Medard, the winger, comes in for Clement Poitrenaud at full-back, allowing Clerc to take over the left wing spot. However, Medard missed training yesterday with a thigh problem and is a doubt for the game.

Chabal takes over at No 8 from Imanol Harinordoquy, who switched to flanker, with Julien Bonnaire dropping to the bench.

France and England won their opening two matches, and the winner of Saturday's match at Twickenham will be expected to go on to win the championship.

Lievremont has already been stoking the fire by claiming earlier this week that none of the other Six Nations teams like the English.

"We don't like them and it's better to say that than be hypocritical," he said. "We respect them, but you couldn't say we have the slightest thing in common with them.

"We appreciate our Italian cousins with whom we share the same quality of life. We appreciate the Celts and their conviviality and among all these nations we have one huge thing in common. We all don't like the English."

Martin Johnson, the England coach, has taken Lievremont's remarks as a compliment. "I don't know about fear, maybe there is a little bit of that there. If I read Marc's quotes correctly they respect us as a team," Johnson said on Monday. "They have said from the outset that if they win here they will win the championship."

Elsewhere in the tournament, James Hook will start in his third different position of this year's tournament when Wales face Italy on Saturday.

Hook, full-back against England and then fly-half when Wales beat Scotland 10 days ago, moves to centre as replacement for the injured Jonathan Davies.

Hook wins his 50th cap, lining up alongside Jamie Roberts in midfield, while Stephen Jones returns at fly-half, making a 98th Test match appearance.

"We have selected the strongest possible side, showing the utmost respect to Italy," Warren Gatland, the head coach, said.

Peter Stringer, the Ireland scrum-half, has been called into the squad as cover for Tomas O'Leary ahead of Sunday's game against Scotland at Murrayfield.

O'Leary is still feeling the effects of a back spasm that troubled him during the build-up to Ireland's match against France on February 13.

Meanwhile, international rugby officials have said it is too early to judge whether the World Cup will be affected by the deadly earthquake which struck Christchurch, New Zealand, yesterday.

There were no reports of earthquake damage to the AMI Stadium, the Christchurch home of the Canterbury Crusaders Super 15 team and a major venue for the World Cup this year.

Christchurch is due to host seven matches during the September 9 to October 23 World Cup, including two of the quarter-finals.