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No punishment for World Player of the Year nominee

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rbs6nations.com and James Mortimer     23 Feb 2013     Photosport

Michalak’s performances for les Bleus in 2012 earned him an IRB World Player of the Year nomination, but he has struggled to recreate that form so far in this year’s Championship.

As a result he has been dropped to the bench as one of numerous changes by Saint-André in an effort to end a run of five Championship games without a win.

François Trinh-Duc will start in his place, and Saint-André insists the decision is to do with giving the Montpellier fly-half a chance to show what he can do.

Saint-André said: “We wanted to change the half-backs but it’s not a sanction. Frederic Michalak has started the last six games for France.

“He’s finding it a little tougher at the moment but it’s not a punishment. He has played some very good matches. After the first two matches and having spoken to each of the players who can play at half-back, I think it was important to take a little bit of pressure of Frederic.

“And from the moment we decided that we wanted to play François Trinh-Duc at fly-half, it made sense to start Morgan Parra. He is a world class goal-kicker. That pairing provide some guarantees. They are used to playing together.”

Philippe Saint-André has made eight changes to the French starting lineup as they look to bounce back from consecutive RBS 6 Nations losses with a win at Twickenham.
The defeats in Italy and at home to Wales pushed Saint-André into the decision, to make a radical overhaul, including a recall for half-back pair Morgan Parra and François Trinh-Duc in place of Maxime Machenaud and Frédéric Michalak.

As expected Thomas Domingo and Yannick Nyanga come into the pack, while Christophe Samson is preferred to Jocelino Suta in the second row and hooker Benjamin Kayser gets the nod over Dimitri Szarzewski.

And Saint-André has also restored Wesley Fofana to the centre, having started all of France’s November Tests, and the opening two games on the wing.

That move allows fit-again winger Vincent Clerc to slot into the back three, alongside Benjamin Fall and Yoann Huget.

Les Bleus find themselves without a win after two matches for the first time since 1982, and will be looking to record a first win at Twickenham since a 2007 World Cup warm-up game.

Saint-André said: “After two losses in the Championship we wanted to inject some competition and freshen up the team. We are going to be ready for a battle at Twickenham.”

France

15 Yoann Huget (Toulouse)
14 Vincent Clerc (Toulouse)
13 Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon)
12 Wesley Fofana (Clermont)
11 Benjamin Fall (Racing-Metro)
10 François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier)
9 Morgan Parra (Clermont)

1 Thomas Domingo (Clermont)
2 Benjamin Kayser (Clermont)
3 Nicolas Mas (Perpignan)
4 Christophe Samson (Castres)
5 Yoann Maestri (Toulouse)
6 Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse)
7 Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse) captain
8 Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)

Replacements:
16 Dimitri Szarzewski (Racing-Metro)
17 Vincent Debaty (Clermont)
18 Luc Ducalcon (Racing-Metro)
19 Jocelino Suta (Toulon)
20 Antonie Claassen (Castres)
21 Maxime Machenaud (Racing-Metro)
22 Frédéric Michalak (Toulon)
23 Florian Fritz (Toulouse)