Vincent Clerc and Alexis Palisson have been included in the France team for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations showdown with Ireland at the Stade de France (kick-off 5.30pm local time/4.30pm Irish time).
France coach Marc Lievremont has made two enforced changes to the team that beat Scotland for les Bleus’ much-anticipated encounter with Ireland.
Injured duo Aurelien Rougerie and Benjamin Fall have been replaced by Vincent Clerc and Alexis Palisson, with experienced wide man Clerc lining out on the right wing and the 22-year-old Palisson on the left wing.
Clerc is a familiar foe to Ireland sides, scoring a hat-trick of tries in France’s 2008 RBS 6 Nations win over the Irish in Paris.
The Toulouse flyer also scored the late try in that nail-biting 2007 clash at Croke Park, and grabbed tries in the sides’ 2004 RBS 6 Nations and 2007 Rugby World Cup meetings.
Palisson plays his club rugby for Brive and this will be his RBS 6 Nations debut as well as his first Test cap since winning his fifth as a replacement against Australia in November 2008.
Palisson has been preferred to Clermont Auvergne’s Julien Malzieu who has been added to the replacements bench, along with Sylvain Marconnet who comes in for the injured Luc Ducalcon.
Commenting on the team selection, Lievremont said: “You don’t change a winning team. Playing Vincent Clerc from the start shouldn’t cause a debate, there was a lot of discussion on who to play on the left wing.
“We decided to go with the versatility and left boot of Alexis Palisson, because he often plays at full-back for Brive.
“We think Ireland will kick a lot for territorial advantage. We know the qualities of Julien Malzieu but it seemed interesting to us to have the presence of Alexis alongside Clement Poitrenaud.”
Bustling centre Mathieu Bastareaud has unsurprisingly kept his place in the starting line-up after he made an impressive comeback against Scotland, scoring two tries in an 18-9 triumph at Murrayfield.
Rougerie, Fall and Ducalcon join full-back Damien Traille, prop Fabien Barcella, scrum half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and locks Sebastien Chabal and Romain Millo-Chluski on France’s injury list.
Lievremont said his side will have to ‘raise the bar a lot higher’ in order to beat defending champions Ireland.
“The Irish are an impressive team. They have an attention to detail and a pragmatism that reminds me of the Australian team,” he added.
“They are less spectacular than Wales or the All Blacks but play an incredibly efficient game, and they have conceded the least penalties in the Six Nations for some time now.”
FRANCE Team & Replacements (v Ireland, RBS 6 Nations Championship, Stade de France, Saturday, February 13, kick-off 5.30pm local time/4.30pm Irish time):
15 – Clement Poitrenaud (Toulouse)
14 – Vincent Clerc (Toulouse)
13 – Mathieu Bastareaud (Stade Francais)
12 – Yannick Jauzion (Toulouse)
11 – Alexis Palisson (Brive)
10 – Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier)
9 – Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne)
1 – Thomas Domingo (Clermont Auvergne)
2 – William Servat (Toulouse)
3 – Nicolas Mas (Perpignan)
4 – Lionel Nallet (Racing-Metro)
5 – Pascal Pape (Stade Francais)
6 – Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse) (capt)
7 – Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier)
8 – Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz Olympique)
16 – Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais)
17 – Sylvain Marconnet (Stade Francais)
18 – Julien Pierre (Clermont Auvergne)
19 – Julien Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne)
20 – David Marty (Perpignan)
21 – Frederic Michalack (Toulouse)
22 – Julien Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne)