France call on grizzled book ends
June 5, 2007

Any notion rugby has become a younger man's game was dispelled today by France, who will ask a trio of grizzled veterans to solve their scrum crisis against the All Blacks.

The severely depleted tourists will field possibly the oldest set of props in test history when Christian Califano and newcomer Olivier Sourgens, both 35, pack down for the second test at Westpac Stadium here.

Hooker Sebastien Bruno is nearly 33, potentially setting a record for the full front row as well.

France have identified the scrum as a serious weakness in their 11-42 first test loss at Eden Park last Saturday, when they struggled to provide any stable possession as the powerhouse All Blacks' front row twisted and buckled them.

And New Zealand will arguably field a stronger scrum for the second test this Saturday in Wellington due to the introduction of hooker Anton Oliver.

Tighthead Nicolas Mas was on the back foot against Tony Woodcock and makes way for Sourgens in one of four starting changes for the French.

"I play for a good scrum, a good lineout and (to make) a difference," said Sourgens, who will make his test debut as will Narbonne second five-eighth Lionel Mazars.

"It's normally a fight against the All Blacks ... it is the best team in the world."

Sourgens has played six times for France A and is well travelled on the tough French domestic scene, with Bourgoin his fourth club.

He had started to wonder whether test rugby would elude him before being a late replacement on this tour for the injured David Attoub.

"Better late than never," Sourgens mused.

Califano is at the other end of the test cap scale, playing his 72nd on Saturday and his 10th against New Zealand.

French coach Bernard Laporte said a wobbly scrum was at the heart of their problems at Eden Park.

When asked if his third choice team would be chasing victory or merely be out to keep the score down against the All Blacks, he said much would depend on his tight five.

"We need the platform at the scrum and the lineout. If we get that then who knows?"

Laporte has stuck with his core of veterans -- Califano, loose forwards Olivier Magne and Sebastien Chabal and fullback Thomas Castaignede -- but again chose to leave 90-test tour captain Raphael Ibanez on the bench, deeming the hooker to be tired at the end of his European club commitments with Wasps.

Lock Pascal Pape will again be captain, with the four new faces from last week being Sourgens, Mazars, who replaces the injured Jean Phillipe Grandclaude, flanker Damien Chouly for Gregory Le Corvec and winger Julien Laharrague for Benjamin Thiery.

Laharrague will have plenty to prove, having been named in last week's starting 15 before being dropped after showing up late for training.

France: Thomas Castaignede, Julien Laharrague, Arnaud Mignardi, Lionel Mazars, Jean-Francois Coux, Benjamin Boyet, Nicolas Durand, Sebastien Chabal, Oliver Magne, Damien Chouly, Julien Pierre, Pascal Pape (captain), Olivier Sourgens, Sebastien Bruno, Christian Califano.

Reserves: Raphael Ibanez, Nicolas Mas, Olivier Olibeau, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Michael Forest, Nicolas Laharrague, Benjamin Thiery

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