France manager Guy Noves has made six changes for Saturday’s Six Nations match at home to Ireland as Les Bleus look to tighten up their defence after scraping a win over Italy in their tournament opener.
Props Jefferson Poirot and Uini Atonio, lock Alexandre Flanquart, flanker Yacouba Camara, centre Maxime Mermoz and wing Teddy Thomas come in for Eddy Ben Arous, Rabah Slimani, Paul Jedrasiak, Louis Picamoles, Gael Fickou and Hugo Bonneval.
“In modern rugby, there is no starter or replacements. It’s more of a relay. It’s not a sanction. Of course the players are evaluated but we also want to see the players in the squad play,” Noves told a news conference on Thursday.
New-look France, in Noves’ first match in charge, rallied from 18-10 down to edge Italy 23-21 at the Stade de France on Saturday. “Against Italy we were not up to international standards in defence,” said Noves.
“Ireland are very good at keeping the ball, they are defence crushers.”
Scrumhalf Sebastien Bezy, who made his debut against the Italians, will again start alongside flyhalf Jules Plisson who kicked a long-range winning penalty with five minutes left.
“We have to show the whole squad that we trust them,” Noves added.
The former Toulouse coach, who took over from Philippe Saint-Andre after last year’s World Cup, said he did not know who would be his goal kicker after Bezy missed three attempts against Italy.
“They will decide between them. It’s not because Bezy missed three that he has become a bad player. He’s got talent.”
Noves added more fire to his backline by naming Thomas, who made a scintillating debut with France last year before being snubbed by Saint-Andre for disciplinary reasons.
“He has been working very well in the past two weeks, his behaviour has been beyond reproach,” said Noves.
1-Jefferson Poirot, 2-Guilhem Guirado (captain), 3-Uini Atonio, 4-Alexandre Flanquart, 5-Yoann Maestri, 6-Wenceslas Lauret, 7-Yacouba Camara, 8-Damien Chouly, 9-Sebastien Bezy, 10-Jules Plisson, 11-Virimi Vakatawa, 12-Jonathan Danty, 13-MaximeMermoz, 14-Teddy Thomas, 15-Maxime Medard
16-Camille Chat, 17-Rabah Slimani, 18-Eddy Ben Arous, 19-Paul Jedrasiak, 20-Loann Goujon, 21-Maxime Machenaud, 22-Jean-Marc Doussain, 23-Hugo Bonneval