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Two New Caps On French Side.

Two New Caps On French Side.

France coach Bernard Laporte handed Toulouse
hooker William Servat and Bourgoin lock Pascal Pape their first caps when he named his side to play Ireland

France coach Bernard Laporte handed Toulouse
hooker William Servat and Bourgoin lock Pascal Pape their first caps when he named his side to play Ireland in the RBS Six Nations Opener here on

The 25-year-old Servat, replacing the retired Raphael Ibanez, and
Pape, 23,
are just two of six changes from the starting line-up which played
England in the World Cup semi-final in Sydney last November.

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Jean-Baptiste Elissalde returns to the international fold and
takes over
from the retired Fabien Galthie at scrum-half.

He will form a halfback partnership with Toulouse team-mate
who made his breakthrough at No 10 during the World Cup,
ending with a disappointing performance against England.

France manager Jo Maso said it was a good mix of older players
with some
younger ones as they seek to rebuild towards the 2007 World Cup.

“It’s an interesting mix but it is a team selected to
win,” said the former
star French back.
“The return of Elissalde at scrum-half is merited and Pape
and Servat have
been excelling at club level. It is a good mix of young and old.”

Maso admitted, however, that there had been a lot of debate
throughout the
positions as to who should fill them apart from the backrow trio
where Imanol
has been appointed vice-captain to Fabien Pelous.

Elissalde, 26 and winning his fifth cap but first since the Six
match with Wales last year, was preferred to Galthie’s understudy at
the World
Cup Dimitri Yachvili.

“Elissalde has been outstanding this season, but we haven’t
selected him
ahead of Dimitri because he is a better player. There was Fabien and
there were the rest and we are just trying somebody who is in great
said Laporte.

Another who failed to make the World Cup, Vincent Clerc, regained
his place
on the wing ahead of Pepito Elhorga while veteran Christophe Dominici
his place despite his moment of madness in the semi-final against
England when
he tripped Jason Robinson and spent the rest of the match on the

“We wanted to see how Clerc had absorbed his being left out
of the World
Cup squad and so far the results are good,” Maso commented.

Laporte said that 31-year-old Dominici’s inclusion – he wins his
36th cap –
was because he was still the best in his position.

“The younger players are not up to the level required at the
moment and
that is why Dominici is in,” said the 39-year-old.

Dominici’s Stade Francais team-mate Pieter de Villiers also
returns after
the South African-born prop missed the World Cup after injuring
himself when
he fell off his bike.

However another South African-born Stade Francais player Brian
lost out on the centre spot where Damien Traille, who was third
choice at the
World Cup, will partner Yannick Jauzion as the other first choice
from that
campaign Tony Marsh is injured.

“Brian has still to step up another level so that is why we
decided to
recall Damien,” said Laporte.

Laporte denied that by selecting 27-year-old prop Sylvain
34-year-old veteran Jean-Jacques Crenca he was already looking
towards the
World Cup as the latter has already confirmed he will not be
available in
three years time.

“Marconnet over Crenca is not because Marconnet can make it
to the next
World Cup but who is playing better.”

France; Nicolas Brusque (Biarritz); Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Yannick
(Toulouse), Damien Traille (Pau), Christophe Dominici (Stade
Frederic Michalak (Toulouse), Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (Toulouse);
Harinordoquy (Pau), Olivier Magne (Montferrand), Serge Betsen
Pascal Pape (Bourgoin), Fabien Pelous (Toulouse, capt), Pieter De
(Stade Francais), William Servat (Toulouse), Sylvain Marconnet (Stade
Replacements: Yannick Bru (Toulouse), Jean-Jacques Crenca (Agen),
Auradou (Stade Francais), Thomas Lievremont (Biarritz), Dimitri
(Biarritz), Brian Liebenberg (Stade Francais), Pepito Elhorga (Agen)

Paul O’Connell will play in his 16th test match as captain of Ireland in the opening RBS Six Nations championship game against France in Paris on Saturday next.

The 24 year old Munster and Young Munster second row, first capped against Wales in 2002, leads the team in the absence of injured Brian O’Driscoll, the designated 2004 Six Nations Ireland captain, who has a hamstring injury.

O’Driscoll is replaced at outside centre by 23 year old Gordon Darcy, who is selected in the Six Nations for the first time. His previous five caps were earned as replacements. O’Driscoll has been replaced in the 22-man squad by Anthony Horgan.

Ireland’s match in Paris will mark the 60th appearance by second row Malcolm O’Kelly, first capped in November 1997 against New Zealand. He becomes the fifth player in Irish rugby history to reach the 60 caps milestone, behind Mike Gibson (69), Willie John McBride (63), Fergus Slattery (61) and David Humphreys, who is a replacement against France, and who currently has 60 caps.

Other notable landmarks being achieved in Paris are the 40th international appearance for prop John Hayes; 25th caps for hooker Shane Byrne and winger Shane Horgan and a 20th appearance for open side flanker Keith Gleeson.


15 – Girvan Dempsey (Leinster – Terenure College)
14 – Shane Horgan (Leinster – Lansdowne)
13 – Gordon Darcy (Leinster – Lansdowne)
12 – Kevin Maggs (Bath)
11 – Tyrone Howe (Ulster – Dungannon)

10 – Ronan O’Gara (Munster – Cork Constitution)

9 – Peter Stringer (Munster – Shannon)
1 – Reggie Corrigan (Leinster – Greystones)
2 – Shane Byrne (Leinster – Blackrock College)
3 – John Hayes (Munster – Shannon)
4 – Malcolm O’Kelly (Leinster – St. Mary’s College)
5 – Paul O’Connell (Munster – Young Munster) Captain
6 – Simon Easterby (Llanelli)
7 – Keith Gleeson (Leinster – St. Mary’s College)
8 – Anthony Foley (Munster – Shannon)

Replacements: 16 – Frank Sheahan (Munster – Cork Constitution), 17 – Simon Best (Ulster – Belfast Harlequins), 18 – Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster – Cork Constitution), 19 – Victor Costello (Leinster – St. Mary’s College), 20 – Guy Easterby (Rotherham), 21 – David Humphreys (Ulster – Dungannon), 22 – Anthony Horgan (Munster – Cork Constitution).

Not considered due to injury: Denis Hickie (Leinster – St. Mary’s College), Marcus Horan (Munster – Shannon), Eric Miller (Leinster – Terenure College), Geordan Murphy (Leicester), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster – Blackrock College), Alan Quinlan (Munster – Shannon).