France stick to controversial Michalak

PARIS (Reuters) - France manager Philippe Saint-Andre stuck to the much-criticised Frederic Michalak to spearhead Les Bleus against Scotland as they look to avoid the Six Nations wooden spoon on Saturday.

The once-brilliant Michalak has had poor games in this year's championship and his first half in last weekend's 13-13 draw against Ireland was definitely not one of his best, with his kicking game being more than questionable.

Former England coach Clive Woodward, working as a pundit at the BBC, said during France's second defeat in the tournament against Wales: "I just can't believe France haven't got a better number 10."

Saint-Andre, who made three changes to the team who faced Ireland in a bid to add power ahead of Saturday's clash, hit back.

"Woodward has been in athletics for four years now. I'm not questioning his work. You have to lose to build your team," he said.

Asked if he did not fear Toulon's Michalak would receive a cold reception from the fickle Stade de France crowd, Saint-Andre replied: "The Stade de France will be behind the France team and Michalak.

"I cannot imagine that those who celebrated him in November will boo."

Michalak was key to France's wins against Samoa, Australia and Argentine last November but since then his form has nosedived.

Saint-Andre argued that he had not many flyhalves to chose from anyway and that by sticking by Michalak, he was not letting Francois Trinh-Duc down.

"Francois has been on all match sheets," he pointed out.

Michalak will play alongside scrumhalf Morgan Parra with the Toulon player in charge of kicking penalties unless game circumstances dictate otherwise.

Parra's main role will be to lead the pack in gruelling weather conditions as torrential rain has been forecast in Paris on Saturday night.

Saint-Andre made two changes among the forwards with South African-born Antonie Claassen coming on for Yannick Nyanga as blindside flanker and Sebastien Vahaamahina replacing Christophe Samson at lock.

Mathieu Bastareaud will also bring power at outside centre as Florian Fritz, who picked up a foot infection, is not even certain to sit on the bench. Gael Fickou is the reserve player.

"We will make a decision tomorrow," said Saint-Andre.

France have one point and will finish last if they lose against Scotland who have not win against Les Bleus since 2006 and since 1999 in an away game.


15-Yoann Huget, 14-Vincent Clerc, 13-Mathieu Bastareaud, 12-Wesley Fofana, 11-Maxime Medard, 10-Frederic Michalak, 9-Morgan Parra, 8-Louis Picamoles, 7-Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 6-Antonie Claassen, 5-Yoann Maestri, 4-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3-Nicolas Mas, 2-Benjamin Kayser, 1-Thomas Domingo

Replacements: 16-Guilhem Guirado, 17-Vincent Debaty, 18-Luc Ducalcon, 19-Christophe Samson, 20-Yannick Nyanga, 21-Maxime Machenaud, 22-Francois Trinh-Duc, 23-Florian Fritz or Gael Fickou.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)