x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Philippe Saint-Andre relishes France's 'Le Crunch' test

The French coach has made two changes for Sunday's game with England.

Julien Dupuy will play at scrum-half for France on Sunday against England.
Julien Dupuy will play at scrum-half for France on Sunday against England.

The experienced half-backs Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc have paid the price for their inability to get France's attacking game moving by being dropped for the game against England.

Philippe Saint-Andre, the France coach, has opted to play Julien Dupuy at scrum-half and Lionel Beauxis at fly-half in the Six Nations encounter at the Stade de France on Sunday.

He said the fact they used to play together at club level will help the pair settle in quickly.

"It's a coherent choice. They've been used to playing with each other at Stade Francais," Saint-Andre said. "Lionel's been in the squad from the outset. It's a change of strategy.

"We've struggled at the start of games, to get out of our own 20 meters. We need a long kicking game to counter the English."

The 26-year-old Beauxis has been in fine form for Toulouse, and is likely to take the kicking duties against England, even though Dupuy is also a recognised penalty kicker. Beauxis kicked all of France's points when they lost 14-9 to England in the 2007 Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Dupuy, 28 and with seven previous caps, has not played for France since a 39-12 defeat to New Zealand in November 2009. A 23-week ban for eye gouging while playing for Stade in the European Cup then stalled his return to the national set-up.

The Beauxis, 26, last played for France in 2009 when they suffered a 27-6 defeat in Australia. He is set to earn his 19th cap.

Saint-Andre made no other changes from the team that rallied from a 17-6 half-time deficit to draw 17-17 last weekend.

Aurelien Rougerie, the centre, was tipped to lose his place after giving away a try against Ireland with an intercepted pass, but he keeps his spot. He started the tournament well with a dominant performance, capped by a try, in the 30-12 win against Italy, but had a poor game in the 23-17 win away to Scotland and his telegraphed pass across the line gave Tommy Bowe an easy first try for Ireland.

Maxime Mermoz, who played alongside Rougerie in the World Cup final defeat to New Zealand last year, was touted to replace him, but Saint-Andre has decided to give Rougerie another chance.

"It's tough on Maxime. His attitude has been irreproachable," Saint-Andre said.

The game, nicknamed "Le Crunch" in the media, will be the 95th meeting between the historical rivals, a fixture Saint-Andre believes surpasses all notion of just being about sport.

"A France v England match isn't just about rugby. A lot of people might only watch one rugby match a year, and that match will be France v England," he said.

"It's all about fight, discipline and commitment throughout 80 minutes and then at the end we shake hands like gentlemen.

"The '"Crunch" has a very special flavour, and it's even more special when you win it so we'll be doing everything we can to make sure we finish with smiles on our faces and shake hands with a 'good game', and hopefully a win, at the end."