Connect to share and comment
Former skipper Thierry Dusautoir has been recalled to the France team that will open their Six Nations campaign against Italy in Rome on Sunday.
The 31-year-old flanker, who captained France in the 2011 World Cup final against New Zealand, last played for the national side in last year's Six Nations tournament.
He was then rested for the tour of Argentina and was ruled out of the November Test matches with an inured knee.
In that time, coach Philippe Saint-Andre handed the captaincy over to Stade Francais lock Pascal Pape and he impressed in the job in the wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa.
Other changes see Racing Metro's Benjamin Fall come in on the wing for the injured Vincent Clerc, while Yoann Huget gets the nod at full-back ahead of the injured Brice Dulin.
Saint-Andre said the toughest choice had been in the back row where Yannick Nyanga, who impressed on his return to the team in November, was left out of the final 23-man squad to make way for the return of Dusautoir alongside his Toulouse teammate Fulgence Ouedraogo.
"We did have a debate over what was our best options in the back row. Fulgence was impressive in the line-outs in November and we wanted to see where he was with his (injured) ankle," he said.
"We wanted to see how Thierry did in the three days of squad training and we saw that he had worked hard during the time he was off injured. He is back to his best as a tackler and a sweeper-up who battles all the time.
"Against Italy who have a powerful set of forwards, we will need to be able to hold onto the ball, to defend our lines and we will need his experience and aggression in the rucks."
Saint-Andre also insisted that Dusautoir had no problem with the captaincy remaining with Pape.
Elsewhere, Saint-Andre said that he wanted to give a vote of confidence to the squad that won the Tests in November with notably Frederic Michalak and Maxime Machenaud retained as starting half-backs.
France will be out for revenge against the Italians having lost to them the last time they played in Rome two years ago.
"They are not a minor team, as they are sometimes portrayed," Saint-Andre said.
"They are a team that is making progress all the time in times of structure and organisation. It will be a tough match for us."
The France team to play Italy in the Six Nations opener in Rome on Sunday:
Yoann Huget (Toulouse); Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Florian Fritz (Toulouse), Maxime Mermoz (Toulon), Benjamin Fall (Racing Metro); Frederic Michalak (Toulon), Maxime Machenaud (Racing Metro); Louis Picamoles (Toulouse), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier); Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Pascal Pape (Stade Francais, capt); Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Dimitri Szarzewski (Racing Metro), Yannick Forestier (Castres)
Replacements: Benjamin Kayser (Clermont), Vincent Debaty (Clermont), Luc Ducalcon (Racing Metro), Romain Taofifenua (Perpignan), Damien Chouly (Clermont), Morgan Parra (Clermont), Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon)