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France call on Michalak

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Sportal.co.nz     14 Jun 2013     Getty Images

As expected, France will field a more experienced line-up than the one that fell 23-13 in the Steinlager series opener at Eden Park, with three changes being made to the forward pack and one other positional switch in the backline.

Fit-again 49-Test prop Nicolas Mas returns to bolster a scrum that struggled against the likes of Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett, while Castres lock Christophe Samson backs up from Tuesday's 38-15 win over the Blues to join the tight five.

Tighthead Luc Ducalon and New Caledonian-born lock Sebastien Vahaamahina move to the bench.

While impressive No 8 Louis Picamoles has retained his spot at the back of the scrum, the South African-born Bernard Le Roux has been preferred to Fulgence Quedrango on the openside and is set to make his international debut at AMI Stadium.

Despite rumours that Toulon bulldozer Mathieu Bastareaud would start in the midfield, both centre Florian Fritz and second-five Wesley Fofana have been retained, with the former named on the bench.

Following his outstanding performance against the Blues at fullback, Maxime Medard has been handed the No 15 jumper while Yoann Huget switches to the wing.

Saint Andre rued a lack of accuracy in their opening loss to the All Blacks and admitted it was behind the decision to replace Camille Lopez, who debuted at No 10 last week, with the 65-Test veteran Michalak.

New Zealanders will remember Michalak for his involvement in the try that earned France a shock win over the All Blacks in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinal.

"I think he's a talented player and he has a lot of flair," Saint-Andre said at the team's hotel in Auckland.

"He has more or less been the first choice of the French team for the last 12 months. Also he is a world class kicker.

"We were not clinical [in the first Test] so I hope Michalak can bring us this."

Speaking to Sportal earlier in the week, Michalak, who has been used solely as a halfback off the bench during the two matches on tour, expressed his desire to return to his natural role as a play-maker.

"I can play both - it's what I do with my club Toulon, but of course I prefer playing number 10," he said.

"I'm more confident there and I've got a little bit more space, I can create a little bit more."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen named the same starting XV that won the first Test, on Thursday morning.

Saint-Andre said he was not surprised but said the addition of Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore and Piri Weepu to the bench made the All Blacks a much stronger outfit.

"No I am not surprised. I would say they were rusty because they hadn't played too much, it was the first Test," he said.

"They've kept a lot of continuity to pick the same fifteen but they brought a lot of experience to the bench with three World Cup champions."

France leave for Christchurch on Friday morning.

France: 1. Thomas Domingo, 2. Dimitri Szarzewski, 3. Nicolas Mas, 4. Christophe Samson, 5. Yoann Mestri, 6. Thierry Dusautoir (c), 7. Bernard Le Roux, 8. Louis Picamoles, 9. Maxime Machenaud, 10. Frederic Michalak, 11. Yoann Huget, 12. Wesley Fofana, 13. Florian Fritz, 14. Adrien Plante, 15. Maxime Medard.

Reserves: 16. Benjamin Kayser, 17. Vincent Debaty, 18. Luc Ducalon, 19. Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20. Yannick Nyanga, 21. Brice Dulin, 22. Remi Tales, 23. Mathieu Bastareaud.