France coach Bernard Laporte hopes the recall of veterans Raphael Ibanez and Olivier Magne will provide a much-needed boost in morale ahead of Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations Championship clash against Ireland in Paris.
Les Bleus suffered a shock 20-16 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield in their tournament opener and are desperate to restore some credibility after such a disappointing performance last Sunday.
Laporte and team manager Jo Maso announced their starting line-up on Thursday and included 32-year-olds Ibanez and Magne with the hope their experience would help Les Bleus recover the confidence that saw them maintain a flawless record through the autumn Test matches.
Ibanez has 74 caps but has not played in the tournament since 2003. The Sale hooker retired from international action after the 2003 World Cup before deciding to come back last year, playing in France’s victory over Tonga in November.
Magne, who has 83 caps, has not played in the Six Nations since Les Bleus’ Grand Slam campaign of 2004. The London Irish flanker has suffered with a foot injury over the past year but was present during the summer tour of Australia and South Africa.
“Magne is better and with Raphael they clearly are motivated to play with us,” said Maso.
“We took our loss to Scotland very badly, and what happened is not acceptable from a team which has World Cup ambitions like us.
“Raphael and Olivier can add dynamism to the team and add pace. Their experience can boost our side. They have great abilities and they can show that age does not matter.
“The most important thing is their determination and their strong mindset. When they are in top form they can achieve great things, and they are in top form.”
Remy Martin and Dimitri Szarzewski are those to make way for Ibanez and Magne, while the other players to come in are Olivier Milloud, David Marty and Aurelien Rougerie.
Sylvain Marconnet, Ludovic Valbon and Nicolas Brusque have also been left out, although scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and fly-half Frederic Michalak have kept their place.
“Fred did not perform well and he knows it,” said Laporte. “We discussed it with him a lot but we decided to make a wise decision and trust the pair Elissalde and Michalak again.
“We want them to show us their talent. Behind them there are Dimitri (Yachvili) and Benjamin (Boyet), who is young and works well.”
Maso also backed Michalak and is confident he will come good after failing to live up to expectations at Murrayfield.
“Michalak is one of those players who can change the course of a match and unsettle our rivals’ defence very easily,” he said.
“He is a creative player and he needs to play as much as possible to express his creativity. There was no need for us to leave him on the bench.”
Les Bleus will be hoping to win on Saturday not only to get their campaign back on track but also to continue their quest to be invincible on home soil.
“At the start of November we decided that one of our objectives would be to remain unbeaten when playing in France until the World Cup,” added Maso.
“We did it during the Test matches and we intend to continue that spell at the Stade de France this weekend.”