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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

'Quiet force' Mathieu Bastareaud to captain France against Wales in Six Nations

Regular captain Guilhem Guirado was ruled out with a knee injury

France rugby union national team centre Mathieu Bastareaud takes part in weight-lifting session. Patrick Kovarik / AFP
France rugby union national team centre Mathieu Bastareaud takes part in weight-lifting session. Patrick Kovarik / AFP

"Quiet force" Mathieu Bastareaud will captain France in their final Six Nations match against Wales on Saturday after Guilhem Guirado was ruled out with a knee injury.

The barnstorming Toulon centre has revelled in French colours since his recall to the national team after a ban and again links up with Geoffrey Doumayrou in midfield.

Guirado's place at hooker is taken by Adrien Pelissie, who will make his debut run-on after four caps as a replacement.

Two other changes by coach Jacques Brunel see Cedate Gomes Sa take the place of Rabah Slimani at tighthead prop, while Gael Fickou starts on the right wing, Benjamin Fall moving to fullback in place of injured Hugo Bonneval, who failed a head injury assessment.

"Guilhem can't play, it would have been too risky," said Brunel of the hooker who was injured in the nail-biting 22-16 victory over England last weekend.

Turning to the 44-time capped Bastareaud, who has been captaining Toulon this season, Brunel said: "For some time he has a sort of serenity which can influence the team.

"He's like a quiet force. We know the weight he can have on the pitch, with or without the ball."

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Don Armand ready to play wherever needed as England face injury crisis ahead of Ireland clash

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In the front row, it will also be a first start for Gomes Sa, who replaces Slimani, who gave away three costly penalties against England by collapsing the scrum.

"I wouldn't say that didn't count, but it's not linked to that," Brunel said.

"We had a debrief with the referees' head [Joel Dume] because we didn't agree with two penalties awarded against Rabah.

"We put too much focus on Rabah Slimani and didn't take into account the positioning of the English and notably the pressure they exerted at the bind, something our captain [Guirado] pointed out at the time."

Fickou sees his energetic cameo role against England pay off with a start, albeit slightly out of position.

"We kept the same set-up in the backline," Brunel said. "Fickou is not in his usual position [of centre] but he pleased us a lot against England."

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