New France boss Lievremont rings changes

MARC LIEVREMONT didn’t take long to usher in a new dawn in French rugby yesterday by naming six uncapped players in a much-changed squad for the Six Nations Championship opener against Scotland.

Lievremont’s first squad announcement of his tenure raised a few eyebrows, with props Julien Brugnaut and Lionel Faure, lock Arnaud Mela, scrum-half Morgan Parra, fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc and winger Julien Malzieu all receiving first call-ups.

Just as surprising were the names left out, including World Cup participants Sebastien Chabal, Pierre Mignoni, Jerome Thion, Clement Poitrenaud and David Marty.

With veteran quartet Fabien Pelous, Raphael Ibanez, Serge Betsen and Christophe Dominici all having retired from Test rugby, props Sylvain Marconnet, Pieter De Villiers and Olivier Milloud not considered because of injury and Frederic Michalak now in South Africa, the squad looks shorn of established stars.

But Lievremont insisted: “Over the past three months, we have watched a lot of matches. We have considered everyone.

“We took into consideration everything, the players who are in form and the team we are to be playing against.”

The front row will be completely changed; Dax’s Brugnaut and Sale’s Faure were surprise call-ups, Lievremont saying of the latter: “His time has come. He plays more than (England prop Andrew) Sheridan at club level, that says everything.”

Toulouse hooker William Servat is recalled to the squad after a lengthy absence and will battle with Dimitri Szarzewski for a place. In the second row, new captain Lionel Nallet will be partnered by Albi’s Mela or Loic Jacquet, who is enjoying an impressive season with Clermont Auvergne.

Montpellier’s Fulgence Ouedraogo, who has one cap to his name, is one of four back-rowers chosen and there is a return for Clermont Auvergne number eight Elvis Vermeulen.

Remy Martin, Imanol Harinordoquy, Yannick Nyanga and media darling Chabal miss out in that department, Lievremont adding: “There were sporting criteria that governed these choices.”

Behind the scrum, the surprises continue.

Bourgoin’s Morgan Parra, 19, gets the nod over Pierre Mignoni as the second-choice scrum-half behind Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, while uncapped Montpellier fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc will be David Skrela’s understudy.

Michalak, who has recently had a knee operation, and Stade Francais’ Lionel Beauxis, who is not match-fit, miss out.

With Marty dropped and Yannick Jauzion injured, Damien Traille is joined by the returning Florian Fritz at centre and in the back three, uncapped Clermont Auvergne winger Julien Malzieu is chosen ahead of Toulouse full-back Poitrenaud.

Lievremont confirmed the selection committee would meet on February 4 to discuss whether there will be changes to the squad for France’s second match of the tournament, against Ireland at the Stade de France the following Saturday.

Meanwhile, Italy lock Marco Bortolami is out for up to six weeks with an eye injury.

France squad — Forwards: Brugnaut (Dax), Faure (Sale Sharks), Poux, Servat (both Toulouse), Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Jacquet (Clermont-Auvergne), Nallet (Castres, capt), Mela (Albi), Bonnaire (Clermont-Auvergne), Dusautoir (Toulouse), Fulgence (Montpellier), Vermeulen (Clermont-Auvergne).

Backs: Elissalde (Toulouse), Parra (Bourgoin), Skrela (Stade Francais), Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Fritz (Toulouse), Traille (Biarritz), Clerc, Heymans (both Toulouse), Malzieu, Rougerie (both Clermont-Auvergne).

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