France will have one eye on the future and one on the past when they take on Australia in their test this evening.
The French are desperate for revenge after being thrashed by Australia two years ago, and need the victory to boost their chances of being among the four top-seeded teams at the next World Cup in 2015. “It’s a great challenge for us to play Australia, the best there is after the All Blacks,” France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said. “The squad has been very receptive, but the truth is out on the pitch.”
The November tests determine the world rankings for the World Cup pool draw next month. The fight is on among the Six Nations sides to secure the fourth spot and avoid the southern superpowers in the World Cup group stage. Precious little separates No 4 England, No 5 France and No 6 Wales. The Wallabies are the only top three side on France’s schedule this month, and Les Bleus will start a new halves pair of scrum-half Maxime Machenaud and fly-half Frederic Michalak. They have played together only once before, against Argentina in June.
For Australia, prop Sekope Kepu and lock Kane Douglas are the only two changes from the 18-18 draw with New Zealand nearly three weeks ago.
France: B Dulin, W Fofana, F Fritz, M Mermoz, V Clerc, F Michalak, M Machenaud; L Picamoles, F Ouedraogo, Y Nyanga, Y Maestri, P Pape, N Mas, D Szarzewski, Y Forestier. Subs: B Kayser, T Domingo, V Debaty, J Suta, D Chouly, M Parra, F Trinh-Duc, Y Huget.
Australia: M Harris, A Ashley-Cooper, B Tapuai, P McCabe, N Cummins, K Beale, N Phipps; W Palu, M Hooper, D Dennis, N Sharpe, K Douglas, S Kepu, T Polota, B Robinson. Subs: S Moore, J Slipper, P Ryan, R Simmons, R Samo, L Gill, B Sheehan, B Barnes.
Referee: N Owens (Wales)