Sports / Soccer

French coach unknown quantity for opening test

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-06-05 17:58

SYDNEY - With the first test in Brisbane just days away, French coach Phillipe Saint-Andre appears to have given the Wallabies, the Aussie rugby team, a significant leg-up by refusing to select players who appeared in the Top 14 final last weekend.

Former Test captain Saint-Andre surprised many on Wednesday night by leaving captain and flanker Thierry Dusautoir out of his team for Saturday night's series opener at Suncorp Stadium.

In fact, both French chasers selected for the Australian series - Dusautoir and Yannick Nyanga, have barely played a few hours between them since they were both sidelined with injured early in February.

Neither are match-fit enough to play in the test match and some of Saint-Andre's squad haven't played since the end of the regular season at the beginning of May and are surely arriving in Australia lacking Test match legs.

However, Les Bleus made short work of the Wallabies after they humiliated them in 2012, in a memorable win 33-6 in Paris the last time the two teams met.

Australia are rebuilding toward the World Cup, and the exclusion of Queensland favorites - the injured and erratic Quade Cooper and halves partner Will Genia, has bled a lot of the Brisbane match of local support.

In his defense Coach Ewan McKenzie had to make several cruel calls for his run on side, in particular dropping his former go-to- man Genia from the squad in favor of Nic White and Nick Phipps - and it makes more sense to allow White to find his feet against France than against the All Blacks.

Following in the footsteps of his father and former Wallaby David Carter, 24-year-old ACT Brumbies lock Sam Carter will become Wallaby No.879 when he makes his Test debut in the starting line- up on Saturday night.

It will also be a memorable occasion for prop James Slipper and No.8 Wycliff Palu with both set to play their milestone 50th Test match for Australia.

For Palu, he will become just the second No.8 in Australian Rugby history to reach the mark, behind only Toutai Kefu (57 games) .

As always with a French test, the wallabies must not be caught in neutral. Never the best travelers, the French will more than likely appear rusty and bored, but the trademark ferocity of the french pack will not be far away.

Their obvious target will be newcomer Bernard Foley at flyhalf, the new Number Nine, White and Brumbies teammate Matt Toomua, at inside center.

MacKenzie acknowledged the time was ripe for Foley and White to take the next step.

"Nic and Bernard are two players who have had a huge influence in the results of their provincial teams over the past two seasons, " he said.

"I've also been pleased to see their development as playmakers since getting a taste of Test Rugby last year and you can sense they have a real confidence in running a game," He said.

MacKenzie said the Wallabies have a very specific style of game and that Foley and White would complement each other, "ensuring we can deliver our game plan on the night."

"They're also established goal-kickers and you can never underestimate the importance of this skill at an international level."

In the end, however, there really is little to go on for both these sides - the Wallabies haven't played since November, and France haven't kicked a ball in anger since the middle of March.

In the last Six Nations tournament, the French smashed England but got smashed by Wales.

The omission of Dusatoir, the 2011 IRB player of the year will see Bernard Le Roux included in the French back-row while veteran flyhalf Frederic Michalak will start at No. 10 despite just flying into Brisbane on Tuesday morning.

Michalak, a favorite with Aussie fans, was left out of Toulon's cup-winning 23-man side for the French domestic decider and saint- Andre resisted the temptation to play halfback Morgan Parra at No. 10 for the first time since the 2011 World Cup final.

The Wallabies will want to target a 3-0 home series outcome as they had against Wales in 2012, and if the French play like they did in their awful Six Nations performance against Scotland, they won't win a trick.

With the fabulously unpredictable Les Blues, The Wallabies just won't know which team is turning up to Brisbane and what mood they will be in.

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