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Laporte puts faith in veterans against Italy

By Pirates Irwin, Paris
FRANCE coach Bernard Laporte’s quixotic attitude to selection saw him make three changes to the team that beat Ireland 43-31 for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Italy at the Stade de France.

The 41-year-old ditched both David Marty and Cedric Heymans from the starting XV even though both had scored two tries apiece against the Irish and Marty had been named man of the match.

Instead Laporte has opted for three veterans to return to the fold and appeared to ditch his strategy of introducing new talent with just over a year to the World Cup which France are hosting.

Damien Traille comes in for Marty in the centres - where the French have badly missed the best centre in France, the injured Yannick Jauzion - while Heymans goes to the bench because Christophe Dominici moves to the wing from fullback and another experienced player Thomas Castaignede comes in at the back.

The third change of personnel sees 32-year-old Thomas Lievremont win his 33rd cap as he comes in at Number Eight for Julien Bonnaire.

Laporte defended his decisions to bring in the experienced campaigners like he did after an opening loss to Scotland - reintroducing 1999 World Cup final veterans Olivier Magne and Raphael Ibanez - which gives France an average cap total of 43.

The scrum average is even higher as led by 104-times capped captain Fabien Pelous it rises to 52 but that mattered little to Laporte.

"We didn’t deliberately go out to age the team," said Laporte.

French manager Jo Maso also defended the selection policy and rare for a Frenchman used their historic rivals England as an example.

"The English were crowned world champions in 2003 (they beat the French in the semi-finals) with ageing players like Neil Back and Martin Johnson."

Laporte admitted that both Bonnaire and Marty were unfortunate to lose their places.

"It is true that Lievremont is less mobile than Bonnaire but he is better at keeping the ball," said Laporte.

Marty was dropped because 26-year-old Traille, who won the last of his 40 caps in the summer tour of South Africa and Australia, has a better kicking game which was lacking from the Irish match where fly-half Frederic Michalak constantly failed to find touch.

FRANCE (v Italy): T Castaignede (Saracens); A Rougerie (Clermont), F Fritz (Toulouse), D Traille (Biarritz), C Dominici (Stade Francais); F Michalak (Toulouse), J-B Elissalde (Toulouse); O Milloud (Bourgoin), R Ibanez (Wasps), P De Villiers (Stade Francais), J Thion (Biarritz), F Pelous (Toulouse, capt), Y Nyanga (Toulouse), T Lievremont (Biarritz), O Magne (London Irish) Substitutes S Bruno (Sale), S Marconnet (Stade Francais), L Nallet (Castres), J Bonnaire (Bourgoin), D Yachvili (Biarritz), D Marty (Perpignan), C Heymans (Toulouse).