France coach Marc Lievremont insists the changes made to his side for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations match with England are based on squad rotation rather than any special measures designed to outfox Martin Johnson’s men.
Lievremont, who yesterday stoked the fires ahead of the crunch encounter by claiming he did not like the English, has rung the changes to his starting XV by handing recalls to Sebastien Chabal, Vincent Clerc, Dimitri Yachvili and Yannick Jauzion, while Maxime Medard switches from wing to full-back to replace Clement Poitrenaud.
Damien Traille, who operated at full-back in the opening 34-21 win over Scotland before switching to centre against Ireland, moves to the bench, while Morgan Parra and Julien Bonnaire also make way.
Asked whether the changes were designed to inject some experience into the ranks after the laboured 25-22 win over the Irish last time out, Lievremont replied: “Not really. That wasn’t the specific aim.
“We wanted to shake up the group. We’re putting out the same three-quarters that finished in Ireland so there’s a form of continuity.”
Lievremont added that it was important for the players who had been replacements in the opening games to get some action from the start this weekend.
“Lads like Vincent Clerc and Yannick Jauzion are champing at the bit. It’s normal to involve them by giving them a boost,” he said.
“Against anyone we would have involved replacements who were on the bench the first two games. We wanted to have a more balanced bench.
“Against Scotland and Ireland, Jerome Thion and Sebastien Chabal, who are powerful players, came on during the game. We’re going to involve one from the start.
“Above all we wanted to reward the replacements while sending out a competitive team.
“We wanted to have an offensive trio available because you can have the idea that its going to be a fast game.
“Maxime Medard will be surrounded by Yohann Huget and Vincent Clerc.
“In the scrum, Dimitri Yachvili has been replacement for a little bit. It’s good to involve him again.”
Yachvili has traditionally performed well against England but Lievremont denied that was behind his inclusion on this occasion.
“He has shone against England but I think he has also had less successful performances against this team,” he said. “What matters is that he is full of confidence right now.”
Lievremont does have one concern to contend with ahead of the game, with Medard a doubt after missing training today with a thigh problem.
The 24-year-old was named at full-back for the match between the only teams boasting 100% records in the competition, but a report on L’Equipe’s website this morning stated Medard was due to undergo an MRI scan to determine the extent of the injury.
Traille, who played at full-back in the opener against Scotland, and Poitrenaud, who replaced Traille at number 15 against Ireland, would be candidates to step up from the replacements’ bench should Medard miss out.
The loss of the in-form Medard would be a blow for Les Bleus but Lievremont is adamant his players will go into the contest full of confidence after their strong start to the campaign.
“We’re going there with a new state of mind and a new confidence won in the first two games,” he said.
“We have the ambition to prove that we can be competitive.
“It would be a feat to go and win at Twickenham but I believe we have the means to do it.”