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RugbyU: Seven changes for France against England

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Thursday made seven changes to his side to take on England in a Six Nations match at Twickenham on Saturday.

Having lost their two opening games against Italy and Wales, Saint-Andre notably restored the halfback partnership of Francois Trinh-Duc and Morgan Parra which brought France the Grand Slam in 2010 and took them to the World Cup final in 2011.

Also back are hooker Benjamin Kayser, prop Thomas Domingo, flanker Yannick Nyanga and top try scorer Vincent Clerc, the winger having missed the last two games through injury.

Clerc's return sees Wesley Fofana revert to centre where he will partner Mathieu Bastareaud, who retains his place after returning to the French squad for this year's tournament.

There is also a first start for Castres lock Christophe Samson, who takes over from Jocelino Suto, who struggled physically in the 16-6 loss to Wales at the Stade de France.

Saint-Andre said that after two demoralising defeats -- France's worst ever start to the Six Nations -- the time was ripe for some fresh blood to be brought in to take on an English side brimming with confidence after three straight wins.

"The English will start favourites," he said. "We will have to show all our qualities of being French on Saturday -- that means being brave, daring, unpredictable and to take the fight to them.

"When we are able to do that, we are able to pose problems for any team in the world.

"To be honest, it's always a good thing when we French have our backs to the wall. That forces us to regroup and to better prepare individually for what will be a bruising contest."

The return of Trinh-Duc and Parra means that the halfback pairing of Frederic Michalak and Maxime Machenaud, preferred by Saint-Andre since he took over as coach from Marc Lievremont, drops down to the bench.

They were oustanding in the November Test wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa but looked generally lacking ideas and penetration against Italy and Wales.

Trinh-Duc at 26 and Parra at 24 are still young players despite having first played together for France for the first time in the equivalent fixture against England five years ago.

"We already know the abilities of Morgan to direct the pack, to score with the boot and his play distribution and we know the abilities of Francois for his play-making and distribution," Saint-Andre said.

"Morgan and Francois are fully determined, up for the challenge and they know the systems we run."

On the selection of Samson for his first start for France at the age of 28, Saint-Andre said that he felt his side needed some extra height in the lineout, whilst also praising the Castres player's mobility in the loose.

France XV to play England at Twickenham on Saturday:

Yoann Huget; Vincent Clerc, Mathieu Bastareaud, Wesley Fofana, Benjamin Fall; Francois Trinh-Duc, Morgan Parra; Louis Picamoles, Yannick Nyanga, Thiery Dusautoir (capt); Yoann Maestri, Christophe Samson; Nicolas Mas, Benjamin Kayser, Thomas Domingo.

Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Jocelino Suta, Antonie Claassen, Maxime Machenaud, Frederic Michalak, Florian Fritz.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130221/rugbyu-seven-changes-france-against-england-0