Lievremont gambles at fly-half
January 21, 2009
Lionel Beauxis is the only recognised fly-half in Marc Lievremont's squad © Getty Images
France coach Marc Lievremont has taken the gamble of naming just one recognised fly-half in his 30-man squad for the 2009 Six Nations.
Stade Francais playmaker Lionel Beauxis has been named in the squad, with David Skrela missing with injury and Frederic Michalak and Francois Trinh-Duc out-of-form, with Toulouse scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde acting as cover at No.10.
The decision to select Beauxis as a specialist fly-half may have raised some eyebrows due to the amount of game-time he spends at fullback for Stade Francais, with Argentina star Juan Martin Hernandez filling the No.10 jersey.
"At number 10, even if there are versatile players in the centres, there is only one specialist," said Lievremont. "Even if he plays sometimes at fullback for his club, Lionel Beauxis is a number 10 for us.
"We are not going to talk about whether it is a negative or an advantage that he is not playing in his position. That is also the case for others. For us, he is a number 10."
Having excluded Trinh-Duc, last season's starting fly-half in the tournament, Lievremont justified his decision by saying that the extra pressure of the France No.10 shirt may only serve to exacerbate his already poor form. "International players, especially a young player like him, go through poor periods," he said. "Francois is a player we appreciate enormously and who we believe in, but it wouldn't do him any good to give him the number 10 jersey for France at this time."
There is a return to the squad for mercurial Toulouse fullback Clement Poitrenaud, while his club team-mate Florian Fritz is also recalled as one of four centres alongside Yannick Jauzion, Benoit Baby and Maxime Mermoz, after some excellent recent form. One player who will not be joining the squad is Toulouse wing Vincent Clerc, the undoubted star of France's 2008 tournament, who has been left out as he continues to recover from a knee injury.
There is a place for Clermont Auvergne skipper Aurelien Rougerie, who may well line-up alongside team-mate Julien Malzieu in the France back three against Ireland at Croke Park on February 7.
In the forwards, there is no place for Biarritz back-row Imanol Harinordoquy or Clermont No.8 Elvis Vermeulen, but there is a return to the squad for Vermeluen's Clermont team-mate Julien Bonnaire.
Lievremont described the return of Bonnaire as "logical" given his improved physical condition and recent good form at club level. "Julien has rediscovered his combative edge and his presence on the pitch," Lievremont said. "It's true that it wasn't there in November. But for some weekends he has been back in excellent condition and his performances have been at a very good level. It is logical that he returns for us."
With so many high-profile exclusions from the squad, Lievremont also moved to stress that his squad was not exhaustive, and that there may be windows of opportunity for certain players. "Without naming names, this list is not exhaustive for the Six Nations," Lievremont said. "It isn't excluded that certain people who don't figure in the 30 will play in the tournament. Some players we are thinking about are injured."
The group will now convene for a training camp in Marcoussis from January 26-28 before Lievremont trims his squad to 23 ahead of the trip to Dublin.
France's provisional 30-man squad for the Six Nations Championship:
Backs: Maxime Medard, Clement Poitrenaud, Cedric Heymans (all Toulouse), Alexis Palisson (Brive), Julien Malzieu, Aurelien Rougerie (both Clermont-Auvergne), Yannick Jauzion, Florian Fritz (both Toulouse), Benoit Baby (Clermont-Auvergne), Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan), Lionel Beauxis (Stade Francais), Jean-Baptiste Elissalde (Toulouse), Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Castres), Morgan Parra (Bourgoin).
Forwards: Julien Bonnaire (Clermont-Auvergne), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Louis Picamoles (both Montpellier), Damien Chouly (Perpignan), Sebastien Chabal (Sale), Lionel Nallet (Castres), Romain Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), Jerome Thion (Biarritz), Guilhem Guirado (Perpignan), Benjamin Kayser (Leicester), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Lionel Faure (Sale), Fabien Barcella (Biarritz), Fabien Lecouls (Toulouse).