France head coach Guy Noves has rebuilt his pack for the task of stopping Ireland after it proved a weak link in the nervy opening win against Italy.
Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Ireland at the Stade de France should pose Les Bleus a greater test than the game with Italy, who were arguably unfortunate to lose at the same venue in the opening match of this season’s championship.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 11, 2016
Props Eddy Ben Arous and Rabah Slimani drop to the bench as Noves prefers Jefferson Poirot and Uini Atonio either side of skipper Guilhem Guirado, with lock Paul Jedresiak and injured flanker Louis Picamoles making way as Alexandre Flanquart and Yacouba Camara come in.
Noves also brings in wing Teddy Thomas and centre Maxime Mermoz to replace Hugo Bonneval, who is named on the bench, and Gael Fickou, who has been absent this week for personal reasons.
Fijian-born Sevens specialist Virimi Vakatawa keeps his place on the wing after making a try-scoring full international debut against Italy last Saturday, when France scraped a 23-21 victory.
Noves said: “We’ve worked on our defensive organisation to try to counter the Irish.
“It will be a difficult match, we hope it will be tricky for Ireland too.
“We’ve prepared for this match by getting it into our heads that we have to show more power.”
Captain Guirado said on the team’s Twitter page: “We’re concentrating on the task facing us. We have to step it up on the defensive side while continuing to play.
“I’m focusing on our game. We want to show good things and impose our game.”
France team: Maxime Medard (Toulouse); Teddy Thomas (Racing 92), Maxime Mermoz (Toulon), Jonathan Danty (Stade Francais), Virimi Vakatawa (French Rugby Federation); Jules Plisson (Stade Francais), Sebastien Bezy (Toulouse); Jefferson Poirot (Bordeaux-Begles), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon, capt), Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Francais), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92), Yacouba Camara (Toulouse), Damien Chouly (Clermont Auvergne).
Replacements: Camille Chat (Racing 92), Rabah Slimani (Stade Francais), Eddy Ben Arous (Racing 92), Paul Jedresiak (Clermont Auvergne), Loann Goujon (Bordeaux-Begles), Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92), Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse), Hugo Bonneval (Stade Francais).