France suffer blow ahead of first test in Brisbane

JIM MORTON
Last updated 07:19 05/06/2014
Thierry Dusautoir
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
BIG LOSS: France captain Thierry Dusautoir has been ruled out through injury for the first test against the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday night.

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France's hopes of ending a 24-year Australian drought have suffered a huge blow with inspirational  captain Thierry Dusautoir ruled out of the first test against the Wallabies.

Les Bleus coach Phillipe Saint-Andre pulled a major surprise overnight by preferring to let Dusautoir overcome an arm problem instead of risking him on Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.

The flanker is only two matches back from arm surgery after a torn biceps kept him sidelined for four months and Saint-Andre opted to rest him after he pulled up sore from training on the weekend.

Although he finished the season with Toulouse, Dusautoir had been wary about travelling to Australia but the coach had been keen to have his skipper play as much as possible with the World Cup 15  months away.

''He is not 100 per cent yet so we prefer to give him one week off to be ready for the second test,'' said Saint-Andre.

Veteran prop Nicolas Mas will captain the French while South African-born Bernard Le Roux replaces Dusautoir in the back-row.

The loss of the 2011 IRB player of the year means Les Bleus will be without half a dozen of their best players as they search for their first win on Australian soil since 1990.

Saint-Andre has rested four players involved in the weekend's French Top 14 final between Toulon and Castres, while also putting Remi Lamerat and Brice Dulin on the bench.

But the coach has selected Frederic Michalak to start at No 10, despite the veteran flyhalf only flying into Brisbane on Tuesday morning.

Michalak, 31, was left out of Toulon's star-studded 23-man side for the Top 14 decider but remained in France to watch Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Giteau lead their team to the championship.

With first-choice five-eighth Remi Tales playing for Castres, Saint-Andre was also mulling over whether to play halfback Morgan Parra at No 10 for the first time since the 2011 World Cup final. But he was confident Michalak would overcome jet lag and four weeks without a game.

''When we picked the squad (last month) he had played three games consecutively at flyhalf and three times in the French League in front of Jonny Wilkinson,'' Saint-Andre said.

''He did very well and his kicking was 90 percent. He's keen, he's focussed, he's keen to start with the No 10 on his back. He wants to show he's a good footballer.''

Uncapped winger Felix Le Bourhis was the other selection shock, picked to make his debut ahead of Maxime Medard.

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France: Hugo Bonneval, Yohann Huget, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana,  Felix Le Bourhis, Frederic Michalak, Maxime Machenaud; Damien  Chouly, Bernard Le Roux, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Yoann Maestri,  Sebastien Vahaamahina, Nicolas Mas, Guilhelm Guirado, Thomas  Domingo. Res: Christopher Tolofua, Vincent Debaty, Rabah Slimani,  Alexandre Flanquart, Antoine Burban, Morgan Parra, Remi Lamerat,  Brice Dulin.

- AAP

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