France shuffle pack despite Twickenham win

France’s second-half revival to beat England on Sunday has not stopped coach Bernard Laporte making several changes.

France’s second-half revival to beat England on Sunday has not stopped coach Bernard Laporte making several changes.

Les Bleus’ hopes of retaining the RBS 6 Nations title received a boost when they defeated England 18-17 just eight days after completing a 16-9 home victory over Scotland.

But the manner of their victory at Twickenham, coming after one of the most tepid and unimaginative first-half performances by a France team in recent years, has led the ruthless France boss to ring the changes for the clash against the unbeaten Welsh at the Stade de France.

Sebastien Chabal, Brian Liebenberg and Pepito Elhorga were all dropped from Laporte’s squad after failing to impress at Twickenham.

Winger Jimmy Marlu is an enforced withdrawal after injuring his left knee against Andy Robinson’s men and will be replaced by Aurelien Rougerie.

Laporte insists the changes to the squad are essential if Les Bleus are to continue to improve during what he sees as a transitional period for his side.

“It breaks my heart to sideline players who defeated England at Twickenham but we are in a rebuilding process,” said Laporte.

“Since we are aiming at excellence, we must boost the squad.

“If we’ve made so many changes in the squad after winning at Twickenham, it’s because we are not satisfied with our performance.

“We are perfectly aware that we could have lost and we have a lot of progress to make, especially on the offensive side.”

Chabal will be replaced by Imanol Harinordoquy, the devastating number eight, although Julien Bonnaire’s excellent display at the base of the scrum on Sunday could prompt Laporte to use the returning Biarritz star elsewhere in the back row.

“Sebastien has our trust, but I think he would be more useful in the second row,” he added. “He will be back with us, probably this summer for the Test matches.”

Centre Liebenberg is replaced by Yannick Jauzion, who has shaken off his injury.

Full-back Elhorga was blamed for France’s lack of strength in their backline, giving an opportunity for Brive’s Julien Laharrague, a France A side regular, to shine.

The 26-year-old intends to make the most of his selection, having already been given a glimpse of what is expected in the international set-up earlier in his career.

Laporte and Maso will announce the starting line-up for the Wales game in Marcoussis next Tuesday.

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