Australia v France, Sydney, June 27
Deans' Wallabies eye perfect build-up
June 25, 2009
George Smith will play his 99th Test on Saturday © Getty Images
Australia boss Robbie Deans will be hoping for the perfect build-up to their Tri-Nations effort when his side take on France in Sydney on Saturday.
Deans' men go in to the game with two comfortable wins over Italy under their belts, with the vast majority of his side for the Test rested after sitting out last weekend's 34-12 victory in Melbourne. Skipper Stirling Mortlock is one of a number of players to be recalled, with fly-half Matt Giteau, winger Drew Mitchell, lock Nathan Sharpe and the front-row of Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore and Al Baxter also returning.
George Smith, who captained the side from No.8 in Melbourne, reverts to his favoured openside position and will win his 99th cap alongside Dean Mumm and Richard Brown. James Horwill starts alongside Sharpe in the second-row.
In the other change to the backline, Adam Ashley-Cooper returns at fullback in place of James O'Connor after scoring a brace of tries off the bench last weekend. O'Connor takes a place on the bench, as do two other try-scorers from their last outing, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Ryan Cross.
After narrowly missing out on a series win over the All Blacks, Marc Lievremont's France side has a new look to it as well, although one forged by a series of injuries. Dimitri Yachvili and Lionel Beauxis start at half-back in place of Julien Dupuy and Francois Trinh-Duc, with Damien Traille shifting to fullback. Florian Frits slots in to the centre in his place, with Maxime Medard shifting to the wing in place of Vincent Clerc.
In the pack, Pascal Pape replaces Sebastien Chabal in the second-row and partners Romain Millo-Chluski. Up front, Sylvain Marconnet and Dimitri Szarzewski are called in, with Fabien Barcella completing the trio. There are further changes in the back-row, where Louis Picamoles misses out in favour of Julien Puricelli.
"Maybe the Wallabies team is better than the New Zealand team for the moment," said France coach Emile N'Tamack of the challenge awaiting his men. "If you can compare the two teams, the Wallabies have a lot of very good players, experience in important positions like 10, fullback, flanker.
"Will it be easier? I'm not sure. We know the next game will be the hardest game of the tour. We know the Australian team very well and we know they have some very good experienced players. It's been a long season for the French players, I know they are very tired. This week we need some recovery because it was a very physical match. We have to be better than last Saturday with our strategy, the ruck, the lineout, the scrums, a lot of things."
Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies), Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs), Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies, captain), Berrick Barnes (Queensland Reds), Drew Mitchell (Western Force), Matt Giteau (Western Force), Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs), Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Al Baxter (NSW Waratahs), James Horwill (Queensland Reds), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs), George Smith (Brumbies), Richard Brown (Western Force)
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau (NSW Waratahs), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Phil Waugh (NSW Waratahs), David Pocock (Western Force), Josh Valentine (Western Force), Ryan Cross (Western Force), James O'Connor (Western Force)
France: Damien Traille; Maxime Medard, Florian Fritz, Maxime Mermoz, Cedric Heymans, Lionel Beauxis, Dimitri Yachvili; Fabien Barcella, Dimitri Szarzewski, Sylvain Marconnet, Pascal Pape, Romain Millo-Chluski, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Julien Puricelli