France will give more of their squad players a chance to impress ahead of the World Cup when they take on Wales in Cardiff on Sunday.
Les Bleus have rung the changes in their 22-man squad for this weekend, and will go with a team less experienced than the one which overpowered England in Marseille last Saturday.
Experienced trio Raphael Ibanez, Fabien Pelous and Frederic Michalak are all rested, while first-choice players Julien Bonnaire, Clement Poitrenaud and Olivier Milloud have also been given the weekend off.
In the absence of Ibanez and Pelous, skipper and vice-captain respectively, grizzled Biarritz flanker Serge Betsen takes the captain’s armband.
Meanwhile, fly-half Lionel Beauxis and prop Pieter De Villiers, both of whom did not play a minute in the double-header against England over the past two weekends, will start at the Millennium Stadium.
Beauxis, a talented youngster who impressed in this year’s RBS 6 Nations Championship, will keep Stade Francais colleague David Skrela on the bench.
De Villiers is back from injury and will pack down in the front row with Nicolas Mas, who is now a permanent member of France’s World Cup squad following the withdrawal of injured prop Sylvain Marconnet on Monday.
Sebastien Chabal, the Sale Sharks number eight, is expected to start in the second row alongside Lionel Nallet, while Cedric Heymans will begin the match in the unfamiliar position of full-back in the absence of Poitrenaud.
France team manager Jo Maso has used Thierry Dusautoir as an example of how selectors’ thinking can be swayed with a strong performance in a friendly.
Dusautoir, the Toulouse flanker, was not chosen in Les Bleus’ original World Cup squad and then, when he was called up to replace the injured Elvis Vermeulen, was considered to be at the bottom of the pecking order among the back-row forwards.
But after a blinding game against England in France’s 22-9 win at the weekend, Maso insists Dusautoir is in with a chance of making the first team for the World Cup.
“Each match brings with it possibilities and appraisals,” said Maso.
“For example, Thierry Dusautoir is back in direct competition in the back row after his match in Marseille, something which was not expected from the start.
“Things like that are very good. Therefore we will see what happens in Cardiff.”
Maso added: “What is pleasing us as far as the evolution of this group is concerned, it is that all the players are very involved. ”They are taking part in the strategy of the team. That was what we wanted.
“They must decide they own destiny. And that has made things progress quicker, quicker than normal.
“The squad feels confident. And a great team is one that has confidence in its own abilities.”
Maso also had a word for Marconnet, the prop whose battle to regain full fitness for the World Cup came to a heartbreaking end on Monday.
“It is terrible what has happened to him,” said Maso, of the Stade Francais forward who broke his leg in a skiing accident during the Six Nations in March.
“We are all disappointed. He worked so hard, but you have to look at the evidence in front of you. Life goes on.”
France’s starting line-up for the Wales game will be announced on Friday afternoon.
The France squad for Sunday’s World Cup warm-up match against Wales in Cardiff is:
Backs: J-B Elissalde (Toulouse), P Mignoni (Clermont-Auvergne), L Beauxis, D Skrela (both Stade Francais), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), D Marty (Perpignan), V Clerc (Toulouse), C Dominici (Stade Francais), C Heymans (Toulouse), A Rougerie (Clermont-Auvergne).
Forwards: S Bruno (Sale), D Szarzewski, P De Villiers (Stade Francais), N Mas (Perpignan), J-B Poux (Toulouse), S Chabal (Sale), L Nallet (Castres), J Thion (Biarritz), S Betsen (Biarritz, capt), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), R Martin (Stade Francais).