Chabal to switch roles

Sebastien Chabal will return to France’s back row for Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations Championship match against England at Twickenham.

Sebastien Chabal will return to France’s back row for Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations Championship match against England at Twickenham.

The Sale Sharks forward has been playing in the second row for most of the season for club and country, but he has been named as a flanker for ’Le Crunch’.

Les Bleus head coach Marc Lievremont has beefed up his pack by bringing in Lionel Faure and Jerome Thion while Francois Trinh-Duc starts at fly-half in place of Benoit Baby, who injured his knee in the win over Wales a week and a half ago.

Mathieu Bastareaud keeps his place at centre alongside Yannick Jauzion, despite the return from suspension of Florian Fritz.

In all, there are three changes in personnel to the team that started against the Welsh.

Chabal started at lock against Ireland and Wales, and played in the second row during the November Tests and for Sale over the past four months.

The back row is his usual department, although he will not be in his favoured number eight position, Lievremont sticking with the in-form Imanol Harinordoquy at the back of the scrum.

“He is a versatile player,” Lievremont said of Chabal.

“He can play in both departments with just as much success. And he will be up against players he knows well.”

That will have been one of the factors behind the recall of prop Lionel Faure, Chabal’s colleague at Sale who was left out of the matchday 22 for the victory over Wales that has kickstarted France’s Six Nations campaign.

Faure replaces Fabien Barcella, who will be Les Bleus’ 23rd man on Sunday.

Thion, 31, returns after almost a year in the international wilderness and will make his 45th appearance for his country.

He has benefited from the injury to Romain Millo-Chluski and comes in at lock for Chabal, who in turn moves to number seven in place of Fulgence Ouedraogo, dropped from the squad completely.

Behind the scrum, scrum-half Morgan Parra will again assume kicking duties and will be partnered by Trinh-Duc, the young Montpellier fly-half back in favour with Lievremont.

The Parra/Trinh-Duc axis was France’s half-back combination when they lost at home to England in last season’s Six Nations.

Trinh-Duc comes in for Baby in the only change in Les Bleus’ backline.

Bastareaud, who made an inspired debut in the 21-16 win over Wales at the Stade de France, deservedly keeps his place at centre.

Fritz is back after serving a three-week suspension for punching but has to be content with a place on the bench alongside the returning Damien Traille, who will act as cover for the fly-half and full-back positions.

Lievremont’s pack has an experienced look to it, with 30-somethings Faure, Marconnet, Thion and replacement Julien Bonnaire back involved.

“We haven’t put an accent on age,” added the head coach.

“It’s true that this team has more experience but the players who return have never left the squad of 30-40 players we have had.

“We can be happy that these players in their 30s are managing to last.”

England’s discipline has been found wanting in their opening three matches of the Six Nations, especially in the defeat to Ireland in their last tournament outing.

But Lievremont maintains it is not his intention to send his team out to provoke the English at Twickenham.

“This is not one of our strategies. It has not been mentioned in our chats, even if we will have to adapt to the way our opponent plays,” he added.

“I have seen there has been a certain form of media pressure on the referees from the England staff. I hope the referee (on Sunday) does not submit to this pressure and remains uncompromising.”

The confidence-boosting win over reigning champions Wales has boosted France’s title hopes, especially with a final match against Italy to come.

Les Bleus have lost their last two matches against England – in last year’s Six Nations clash and in the semi-finals of the 2007 World Cup.

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