Six Nations

France rally behind Michalak

2013-03-14 19:14
Frederic Michalak (AFP)

Marcoussis - France manager Philippe Saint-Andre kept faith with 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 played poorly in this year's championship and his first-half display in last weekend's 13-13 draw against Ireland was not one of his best, particularly his kicking game.

Former England coach Clive Woodward, working as a pundit for the BBC, said during France's second defeat in the tournament against Wales: "I just can't believe France haven't got a better No 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 feared 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 over Samoa, Australia and Argentina last November but his form has since nosedived.

Michalak's team-mates expressed their support.

"Fred does not need us to defend him but he knows what we think of him and that's what matters," lock Yoann Maestri told reporters.

"When we lose it's not Fred's fault, just like when we win it's not just thanks to him," flank Yannick Nyanga said.

Michalak himself had a word for his critics in England, saying: "The English, I kiss them kindly - see you soon."

Michalak will play alongside scrumhalf Morgan Parra with the former kicking the 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 evening.

Saint-Andre made two changes among the forwards with South African-born Antonie Claassen coming in for Yannick Nyanga at 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.

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

Teams:

Scotland:
15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Kelly Brown (captain), 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant

Substitutes : 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Moray Low, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Max Evans

France:
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

Substitutes: 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)

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