PARIS (Reuters) - Mathieu Bastareaud will make his France comeback more than two years since his last appearance after the Toulon centre was named in the starting lineup for a test match against New Zealand on Saturday.
Coach Guy Noves named a team on Thursday that will be led by scrumhalf Antoine Dupont and debutant flyhalf Anthony Belleau, in the absence of the injured Camille Lopez. The pair have already played together in the France U-20 team.
Noves had to make do with a dozen of withdrawals because of injuries and Bastareaud, who won his last cap in Les Bleus’s record 62-13 defeat against New Zealand at the 2015 World Cup, benefited from the absence of Remi Lamerat.
After the All Blacks, France take on South Africa, also at the Stade de France on Nov. 18, and Japan at the U-Arena the following week.
Noves said he picked his team on the form of the moment.
“We thought that (centres) Mathieu (Bastareaud) and Geoffrey (Doumayrou), as well as Antoine (Dupont) and Anthony (Belleau) have been performing well with their clubs,” Noves told a news conference.
“We tried to build a team which is as competitive and as balanced as possible.”
Noves was not concerned that halfbacks Dupont and Belleau were only 20 and 21, respectively and have only three caps between them.
“They have to start one day. It’s not easy but the kids can play, even if we’re against the best team in the world,” he said. “We have nothing to lose. They have to be bold.”
After three heavy defeats in South African in June, France want to avoid a thrashing against the world champions. Noves said the most important thing would be the team’s mindset.
“What I‘m asking is that everyone give their best. Those who don’t understand that will not be coming back. Maybe if everyone gives their best, France will show something interesting,” said Noves.
Nans Ducuing - Yoann Huget, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Mathieu Bastareaud, Teddy Thomas – Anthony Belleau, Antoine Dupont - Louis Picamoles, Kevin Gourdon, Judicael Cancoriet - Paul Gabrillagues, Sebastien Vahaamahina - Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado (cap), Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements : Clement Maynadier, Raphael Chaume, Daniel Kotze, Paul Jedrasiak, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Francois Trinh-Duc, Damian Penaud
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Jon Boyle and Edmund Blair