France coach Marc Lievremont has wielded his axe, making six changes to the side that beat Scotland 27-6 for this Saturday’s showdown with Ireland (Stade de France, kick-off 5pm local time).
Lievremont initially made more changes to last week’s side with Vincent Clerc, who touched down twice against the Scots, surprisingly dropped to the replacements bench.
But left winger Julien Malzieu has since been forced to withdraw from the French team due to a thigh injury, allowing Clerc to regain a place in the starting line-up and Clermont Auvergne’s Anthony Floch has been added to the bench.
Clerc has performed very well in recent outings against Ireland – who could forget his last-gasp try when the sides met at Croke Park last year, while he also touched down twice in France’s 25-3 World Cup win over the Irish in September.
For the latest visit of Eddie O’Sullivan’s men, Lievremont has selected Clermont Auvergne’s Aurelien Rougerie on the right wing, while David Skrela of Stade Francais will start at number 10 instead of Francois Trinh-Duc, who made his debut against Scotland.
France’s other changes see hooker Dimitri Szarzewski, prop Nicolas Mas, lock Arnaud Mela and number 8 Julien Bonnaire come into the team.
The forwards making way are Julien Brugnaut, William Servat, Loic Jacquet and Elvis Vermeulen, with the injured Vermeulen the only one of them not to gain a place on the bench.
Vermeulen, who scored the try which steered France to a dramatic Six Nations title win last season, injured himself during the game against Scotland last Sunday and X-rays have revealed a broken rib.
French team spokesman Lionel Rossigneux confirmed that the Clermont Auvergne forward will be sidelined for “between four and six weeks.”
Vermeulen’s place in the matchday squad has gone to the uncapped Louis Picamoles, who turned 21 on Tuesday and brings the number of Montpellier players in Lievremont’s squad to three.
France have also received a considerable boost with Jean-Baptiste Elissalde being declared fit to retain his place at scrum half. The Toulouse star had been a doubt after injurying his ankle in the victory over Scotland.
FRANCE TEAM AND REPLACEMENTS (v Ireland, 2008 RBS Six Nations, Stade de France, Paris, Saturday, February 9, kick-off 5pm local time):
15 – Cedric Heymans (Toulouse)
14 – Aurelien Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne)
13 – David Marty (Perpignan)
12 – Damien Traille (Biarritz)
11 – Vincent Clerc (Toulouse)
10 – David Skrela (Stade Francais)
9 – Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (Toulouse)
1 – Nicolas Mas (Perpignan)
2 – Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais)
3 – Lionel Faure (Sale Sharks)
4 – Arnaud Mela (Albi)
5 – Lionel Nallet (Castres) (capt)
6 – Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier)
7 – Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse)
8 – Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne)
16 – William Servat (Toulouse)
17 – Julien Brugnaut (Dax)
18 – Loic Jacquet (Clermont Auvergne)
19 – Louis Picamoles (Montpellier)
20 – Morgan Parra (Bourgoin)
21 – Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier)
22 – Anthony Floch (Clermont Auvergne)