MARCOUSSIS, France (Reuters) - Mathieu Bastareaud has been named in France’s starting line-up for their Six Nations clash against England at Twickenham on Sunday, in an acknowledgement that they will need power in the centre.
Head coach Jacques Brunel on Friday made six changes to the team who threw away a 16-0 halftime lead in a 24-19 defeat to Wales in the championship’s curtain-raiser last Friday, with Bastareaud pushing the lighter Romain Ntamack to the bench.
The Toulon powerhouse, who did not feature in the squad against Wales, will start alongside Geoffrey Doumayrou, who replaces the injured Wesley Fofana.
“We know the impact he can have against the power of the England centres, notably Manu Tuilagi,” said Brunel, who dismissed suggestions that he was changing his overall strategy.
“We have three players injured. Nothing serious, but they needed eight days of rest and we didn’t want to take any risks,” he explained.
“We still want to put speed in our game. We managed to do it in the first half last week. It remains our main goal.”
With Maxime Medard injured, Yoann Huget, whose mistake led to Wales’s second try at the Stade de France, moved down to fullback, leaving the wing position to Gael Fickou.
Huget was preferred to the 23-year-old Thomas Ramos as Brunel believes France will also need experience against England: “We didn’t want to expose him early in the game as we know it’s going to be a bit complicated.”
Brunel also reshuffled his pack.
Demba Bamba will start at tight-head prop after Uini Atonio suffered a knee injury while flanker Yacouba Camara took over from Wenceslas Lauret and lock Felix Lambey replaced Paul Willemse.
Scrumhalf Morgan Parra and flyhalf Camille Lopez will start together again while scrumhalf Antoine Dupont will take Baptiste Serin’s place on the bench.
England started their campaign with a 32-20 away win against Ireland last Saturday, while France have lost seven of their last eight matches.
“England always impose their power. They’re back to their best, as the game against Ireland showed. I was very impressed by their performance,” said Brunel.
15-Yoann Huget, 14-Damian Penaud, 13-Mathieu Bastareaud, 12-Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11-Gael Fickou, 10-Camille Lopez, 9-Morgan Parra, 8-Louis Picamoles, 7-Arthur Iturria, 6-Yacouba Camara, 5-Felix Lambey, 4-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3-Demba Bamba, 2-Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1-Jefferson Poirot
16-Pierre Bourgarit, 17-Dany Priso, 18-Dorian Aldegheri, 19-Paul Willemse, 20-Gregory Alldritt, 21-Antoine Dupont, 22-Romain Ntamack, 23-Thomas Ramos
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Peter Rutherford/Sudipto Ganguly and Kevin Liffey