Laporte axes Gelez, Califano

FRANCE coach Bernard Laporte, still bitter after defeat to Ireland, resisted making sweeping changes to his squad of 22 to play Italy in the Six Nations Championship in Rome on March 23.

But he dropped flyhalf Francois Gelez and recalled 20-year-old Frederic Michalak who has won all but two of his six caps at scrumhalf.

Laporte axes Gelez, Califano Injured Hodgson likely to miss World Cup Andrew Baldock

FRANCE coach Bernard Laporte, still bitter after defeat to Ireland, resisted making sweeping changes to his squad of 22 to play Italy in the Six Nations Championship in Rome on March 23.

But he dropped flyhalf Francois Gelez and recalled 20-year-old Frederic Michalak who has won all but two of his six caps at scrumhalf.

Michalak played flyhalf for France A against Ireland A last Friday, putting over all his kicks four penalties and two conversions in a 29-19 win.

The only other change to the squad sees Bourgoin loosehead prop Olivier Milloud in for veteran Christian Califano, who has failed to impress in his three appearances since being recalled after over a year in the wilderness.

First-choice scrumhalf and captain Galthie is still out with a shoulder injury.

That allows Dimitri Yachvili to continue and if Michalak is selected they would form the 15th halfback pairing Laporte has tried since taking over as coach following the 1999 World Cup 34 matches ago.

Laporte, who accused his players of cheating in last Saturday's 15-12 defeat to Ireland, had second thoughts about ringing the changes.

"It would have been easy to change the whole team but we didn't want to do that. I prefer to mull things over rather than sanction anybody," Laporte said. "What really annoyed me in Dublin was all the mistakes we made."

England's Charlie Hodgson is determined to look to the future despite suffering a knee injury which will almost certainly force him to miss this year's World Cup in Australia.

Hodgson, England's goalkicking flyhalf understudy to Jonny Wilkinson, was diagnosed with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, suffered during Sunday's 40-5 victory over Italy at Twickenham.

He has not yet been ruled out of the World Cup but he is expected to be sidelined for six months, which would prevent him from taking any part in the build-up.

"It is very disappointing to pick up this injury, particularly the way it happened with my studs getting stuck in the turf," said Hodgson.

"I just want to start my rehabilitation as soon as possible and I am just looking forward to playing again."

There was some good news for Clive Woodward, as Martin Johnson will regain the captaincy from stand-in Wilkinson for England's RBS Six Nations clash with Scotland at Murrayfield on March 22.

Wilkinson took over the armband for Sunday's victory over Italy after Johnson was ruled out with a minor Achilles tendon injury. However, the Leicester lock is among five players returning from injury who were named by Woodward in a 30-man training squad.

"It is good to welcome back a number of players from injury. Ben Cohen (thigh), Jason Robinson (knee), Trevor Woodman (neck and shoulder), Martin Johnson (Achilles) and Neil Back (calf) are all now back in contention to be selected for the game against Scotland. I thought Jonny Wilkinson did an outstanding job as captain last week and as planned Martin Johnson will resume this role against Scotland. After their win against Wales, Scotland will provide us with a tough test. They scored three tries and look as if they are returning to form."

Jonah Lomu has been told to shape up or risk missing this year's World Cup. The Hurricanes winger has failed to impress in the Super 12 so far after missing the first two rounds through injury and now New Zealand selector Kieran Crowley has warned Lomu's past World Cup heroics will count for nothing.

"We are starting with a clean slate. What he did (at the 1995 and 1999 World Cups) is in the past," Crowley said. "We will be picking this year's team on form. He is the sort of player who cannot afford to have two or three weeks of nothing."

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