France take Six Nations gamble
Lievremont forced to gamble on Benoit Baby at flyhalf for crunch clash against Wales.
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2009 14:49 GMT

Mathieu Bastareaud and Benoit Baby during France training [AFP]
France will face grand slam-hunting Wales with a centre at flyhalf, an uncapped back in midfield and no recognised goalkicker in their Six Nations game at the Stade de France on Friday.

Coach Marc Lievremont stunned the media at the team's training camp in Marcoussis on Wednesday when he named Benoit Baby at number 10, Morgan Parra at nine and Mathieu Bastareaud at 13.

"If we win we'll be called geniuses, if we lose we'll be called idiots and incompetents," he said.

Big gamble

The French coach admitted Monday's withdrawal through injury of Lionel Beauxis, the only specialist flyhalf and recognised goalkicker in the squad, had influenced his selection.

He also said he had "picked the best team available to face the Welsh" but was at pains to explain the options he chose to make up for Beauxis's absence.

"At flyhalf, we had Francois Trinh-Duc or David Skrela.

"Francois hasn't trained with us for eight months and only joined the squad on Monday and David has only played two games in two months and a half," he said.

"Benoit has been our cover for Beauxis for the last five or six games. He has got the required skill to play at flyhalf," he added.

The 25-year-old Baby has won his eight caps at outside centre and only played a few games at flyhalf with his Clermont club when Australian Brock James was not available.

With 20-year-old scrumhalf Parra, he will form the ninth halfback pairing in 13 matches since Lievremont's appointment.

Morgan Parra steps into the position of goalkicker [AFP]
Two conversions

"Morgan will be our number one goalkicker," said the coach.

"It's true that he only kicks occasionally and only scored two conversions this season but he has been practising like a specialist goalkicker with Bourgoin and during our training sessions."

Another shock was the selection at centre of Mathieu Bastareaud, who Lievremont called up for the first time on Monday after Maxime Mermoz was ruled out because of a thigh injury.

"We had the choice between Mathieu and Damien Traille but Damien is ill. Mathieu will bring his physical power and his mental strength," Lievremont said.

Bastareaud, who weighs in at 111 kilograms, was named by former France coach Bernard Laporte in his squad for a tour to Australia in 2007 when he was still playing amateur rugby in the Paris suburbs, but had to withdraw because of an injury.

In other changes, Maxime Medard takes over from Clement Poitrenaud at fullback and Julien Malzieu replaces Medard on the right wing.

In the pack, prop Sylvain Marconnet is recalled at tighthead two years after winning his 71st cap to replace Nicolas Mas, who has been sidelined with a groin injury.

Sebastien Chabal is back at lock in place of Romain Millo-Chluski.

Team: 15-Maxime Medard, 14-Julien Malzieu, 13-Mathieu Bastareaud, 12-Yannick Jauzion, 11-Cedric Heymans, 10-Benoit Baby, 9-Morgan Parra; 8-Imanol Harinordoquy, 7-Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6-Thierry Dusautoir, 5-Sebastien Chabal, 4-Lionel Nallet (captain), 3-Sylvain Marconnet, 2-Dimitri Szarzewski, 1-Fabien Barcella.

Replacements: 16-Benjamin Kayzer, 17-Thomas Domingo, 18-Romain Millo-Chluski, 19-Louis Picamoles, 20-Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 21-Francois Trinh-Duc, 22-Clement Poitrenaud.

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