France omit Thierry Dusautoir from Wallabies Test
June 4, 2014
Thierry Dusautoir needs a little more time to overcome an arm injury © Getty Images
France have been dealt a huge blow to their hopes of ending a 24-year drought in Australia, with inspirational captain Thierry Dusautoir ruled out of the first Test against the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
Phillipe Saint-Andre pulled a major surprise when he preferred to rest Dusautoir, who is only two matches back from arm surgery after a torn biceps sidelined him for four months.
Dusautoir finished the French Top 14 season with Toulouse, but he was wary about travelling to Australia and joined the tour only because Saint-Andre wanted his skipper to play as much as possible with the Rugby World Cup 15 months away.
The back-rower pulled up sore from training on the weekend and "he is not 100% yet so we prefer to give him one week off to be ready for the second Test," Saint-Andre said. Veteran prop Nicolas Mas will now captain the French, while South Africa-born Bernard Le Roux replaces Dusautoir in the back-row.
The loss of the 2011 IRB player of the year means France will be without half-a-dozen of their best players as they search for their first win against the Wallabies on Australian soil since 1990. Saint-Andre has rested four players involved in the weekend's Top 14 final between Toulon and Castres, while also putting Remi Lamerat and Brice Dulin on the bench.
With first-choice fly-half Remi Tales having played for Castres in that final, the coach selected Frederic Michalak to start at No.10 despite the veteran flying into Brisbane only on Tuesday morning.
Michalak, 31, was left out of Toulon's star-studded 23-man side for the Top 14 decider, but he remained in France to watch Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Giteau lead their team to the championship.
Saint-Andre considered selecting scrum-half Morgan Parra at No.10 for the first time since the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, but he turned to Michalak confident he would overcome jet lag and four weeks without a game.
"When we picked the squad [in May], he had played three games consecutively at fly-half and three times in the French league in front of Jonny Wilkinson," Saint-Andre said. "He did very well and his kicking was 90%. He's keen. He's focussed. He's keen to start with the No.10 on his back. He wants to show he's a good footballer."
Uncapped winger Felix Le Bourhis was the other selection shock, picked to debut ahead of Maxime Medard.
France: Hugo Bonneval; Yohann Huget, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Felix Le Bourhis; Frederic Michalak, Maxime Machenaud; Damien Chouly, Bernard Le Roux, Fulgence Ouedraogo; Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina; Nicolas Mas, Guilhelm Guirado, Thomas Domingo. Replacements: Christopher Tolofua, Vincent Debaty, Rabah Slimani, Alexandre Flanquart, Antoine Burban, Morgan Parra, Remi Lamerat, Brice Dulin.
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