Six Nations: France ring the changes for Scotland clash as experienced duo dropped

France head coach Jacques Brunel has denied dropping experienced duo Camille Lopez and Morgan Parra from his team to face Scotland as punishment for comments they made after the 44-8 defeat by England at Twickenham.

Camille Lopez (left) with Morgan Parra during a training session. Picture: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

The pair have more than 90 international caps between them, not to mention a combined total of more than 350 TOP 14 appearances, but both have been dropped for the visit of Gregor Townsend’s side on Saturday in the third round of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations championship.

Both players called into question the coaching team’s approach, following the heavy loss in London.

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Under pressure? France head coach Jacques Brunel denied the pair had been dropped as a punishment. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

In his post-match comments, Clermont Auvergne scrum-half Parra - who served as vice-captain in the defeat - said: “I think that we are capable of doing what the English do, but are we working on this during training? 
“I think we don’t work on it enough, even not at all. Yet these are very simple things that are today part of high-level rugby. We can do this. But do we work on it? No.”

But Brunel vehemently denied that the pair had been dropped for discipline reasons as he announced four changes to a revamped and younger starting XV.

Antoine Dupont, 22, and Romain Ntamack of Toulouse will replace Parra and Lopez respectively, despite the 19-year-old Ntamack rarely operating at fly-half at club level.

“It’s not the case [that Lopez and Parra are sanctioned],” Brunel insisted. “Ask them, ask their team-mates. Given our performance [against England], we needed to change things.”

As part of the reshuffle, Yoann Huget returns to the wing after a below-par performance out of position at full-back against the Enlgish, while Gael Fickou returns to inside centre after being deployed on the wing.

Thomas Ramos starts at full-back with the 23-year-old on kicking duties in the absence of Lopez and Parra, while Ntamack - who started at his preferred role of centre against Wales - has been tasked with playmaking.

He added that the backroom staff had been working closely on Ntamack’s game to get the best out of him.

Despite ringing the changes and naming his team 48 hours ahead of schedule, Brunel was adamant that the early announcement would not have an adverse effect on preparations.

“After seeing our performance against England, Scotland must be pretty confident anyway,” the French coach remarked.

Les Bleus go into this match hoping to avoid an 11th defeat in Brunel’s 14 matches in charge, and a third straight defeat in the 2019 tournament.

Scotland, who haven’t registered a win in Paris in the last 20 years, will name their team on Thursday, with regular stand-off Finn Russell already ruled out of the match.

France team to play Scotland

Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Mathieu Bastareaud, Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Demba Bamba, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Felix Lambey, Wenceslas Lauret, Arthur Iturria, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Etienne Falgoux, Dorian Aldegheri, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Belleau, Maxime Medard.