France v Wales, Six Nations Championship, February 27
France gamble on Baby at fly-half
February 25, 2009
Benoit Baby will assume the unfamiliar role of fly-half against Wales © Getty Images
France coach Marc Lievremont has once again gambled in the fly-half stakes, naming centre Benoit Baby at No.10 for their vital Six Nations match-up with Wales at the Stade de France on Friday.
With regular fly-half Lionel Beauxis sidelined with a pelvic injury Lievremont has plumped for Baby over Montpellier's Francois Trinh-Duc, who was called in to the squad on Monday. Baby's move to pivot opens the door for rampaging Stade Francais centre Matthieu Bastareaud to make his debut alongside Yannick Jauzion in the centres.
Morgan Parra replaces Sebastien Tillous-Borde at scrum-half, meaning that France are trialling a completely new half-back combination against the Welsh. There is also a change in the back-three, with Maxime Medard reverting to fullback in place of Clement Poitrenaud and Clermont's Julien Malzieu slotting in on the wing.
Sylvain Marconnet will equal Christian Califano's caps record of 72 for a prop when he packs down in the front-row while Sale's Sebastien Chabal returns to the starting line-up in the second-row.
"We regret the withdrawal of Lionel Beauxis," he said. "Events therefore dictate our choice. We know it's not ideal - we need our best team against Wales. Francois only arrived on Monday. We think he (Baby) has all the qualities to play in that position even if he rarely plays there for his club. We have confidence in Benoit Baby."
While Bastareaud was also only called in to the squad on Monday Lievremont maintains that his hands were tied in terms of his selection following an injury to Perpignan's Maxime Mermoz.
"We had to choose (who to call up) between Mathieu Bastareaud and Damien Traille, but Traille is ill and only played an hour (at the weekend) while Florian Fritz is still suspended," said Lievremont. "Mathieu has the profile to come into this team and bring his determination and power. He has played well for Stade. And we are conscious he has only come into the squad four days before the match."
Baby was excited to take on the mantle of fly-half and believes that he has the skill-set to perform at No.10. With the images of Mauro Bergamasco's stint at scrum-half for Italy against England still close at hand he will be hoping for a more composed showing.
"They asked me to take on the challenge and I said 'yes'," Baby said. "I took the news calmly - I'm very happy to be playing number 10. It shows the confidence the coaches have in me. And I think I've the ability to play in both positions.
"I'm confident. I know what I'm capable of and I know everyone will help me. It's not an easy position to play but it's a challenge I will take on. It's exciting. There will be a lot of responsibility but you get that at centre, at full-back."
France: Maxime Medard (Toulouse); Julien Malzieu (Clermont-Auvergne), Mathieu Bastareaud (Stade Francais), Yannick Jauzion, Cedric Heymans (both Toulouse); Benoit Baby (Clermont-Auvergne), Morgan Parra (Bourgoin); Fabien Barcella (Biarritz), Dimitri Szarzewski, Sylvain Marconnet (both Stade Francais), Lionel Nallet (Castres, capt), Sebastien Chabal (Sale), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz).
Replacements: Benjamin Kayser (Leicester), Thomas Domingo (Clermont-Auvergne), Romain Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), Louis Picamoles (Montpellier), Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Castres), Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Clement Poitrenaud (Toulouse).