England v France, Six Nations Championship, March 15
Chabal makes back-row switch
March 11, 2009
Sebastien Chabal during France's win over the Pacific Islands at the Stade Bonal, November 15 2008
Sebastien Chabal will start in the back-row for France at Twickenham © Getty Images

France coach Marc Lievremont has shifted Sebastien Chabal into the back-row for Sunday's crucial Six Nations match against England at Twickenham. Chabal has been selected on the openside flank in place of Fulgence Ouedraogo, with Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy retaining their places.

Francois Trinh-Duc starts at fly-half in place of Benoit Baby, with Mathieu Bastareaud retaining his place in midfield despite the return from suspension of Florian Fritz. Morgan Parra continues at No.9 while Julien Malzieu retunrs on the wing after competing for France at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai last weekend.

Jerome Thion returns to the side in the second-row after a year in the international wilderness due to an injury to Romain Millo-Chluski and partners skipper Lionel Nallet and in the front-row there is a return for Sale prop Lionel Faure.

"The idea has been thrown about for a some time - it's an interesting option," said Lievremont of selecting Chabal at openside. "He's the only player who has this versatility in the second and back rows. I've said to myself for a while that, once we have controlled the rotation of our players up front, it could be an interesting option against a powerful team such as England or South Africa.

"We expect him to bring us his abilities to pierce a defence as powerful and dense as the English's. We haven't hesitated. He is a player who gets everywhere, a modern-style player. Although we don't think that, despite his qualities, Sebastien can terrorise the English pack all by himself."

The side has an experienced look to it, with Thion, Faure and Chabal all adding their 30 plus years of experience to the pack.

"We haven't put an accent on age," said Lievremont. "It's true that this team has more experience but the players who return have never left the squad of 30-40 players we have had. We can be happy that these players in their 30s are managing to last."

Lievremont maintains that his side will not look to provoke England following their recent disciplinary problems, although he hoped that the referee would not cave to recent pressure from the England management and the media.

"This is not one of our strategies. It has not been mentioned in our chats, even if we will have to adapt to the way our opponent plays," said Lievremont. "I have seen there has been a certain form of media pressure on the referees from the England staff. I hope the referee (on Sunday) does not submit to this pressure and remains uncompromising."

France: Maxime Medard (Toulouse); Julien Malzieu (Clermont-Auvergne), Mathieu Bastareaud (Stade Francais), Yannick Jauzion, Cedric Heymans (both Toulouse); Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Morgan Parra (Bourgoin); Lionel Faure (Sale), Dimitri Szarzewski, Sylvain Marconnet (both Stade Francais), Lionel Nallet (Castres, capt), Jerome Thion (Biarritz), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Sebastien Chabal (Sale), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz).

Replacements: Benjamin Kayser (Leicester), Thomas Domingo (Clermont-Auvergne), Louis Picamoles (Montpellier), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont-Auvergne), Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Castres), Florian Fritz (Toulouse), Damien Traille (Biarritz).

© Scrum.com

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