France announce team for the weekend
February 2, 2000

France have dropped World Cup captain Raphael Ibanez for Saturday's Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championship opener against Wales in Cardiff.

Hooker Ibanez, who led France to the World Cup final last November and a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1998, makes way for 32-year-old Marc Dal Maso.

Colomiers hooker Dal Maso, first capped in 1988, did not regain his French squad place until eight years later and understudied Ibanez during the World Cup.

It is the second major blow for Ibanez since new coach Bernard Laporte took charge, having lost the captaincy to Toulouse forward Fabien Pelous.

Pelous and Abdel Benazzi, France's World Cup final locks, move to the back row alongside Montferrand openside Olivier Magne as ex-Stade Francais supremo Laporte fields a huge pack for his first Test in charge.

Uncapped Biarritz forward Legi Matiu, a Samoan international who qualifies for France on residency grounds, comes into the second row alongside Olivier Brouzet, and powerful Toulouse prop Christian Califano is available again after suspension.

Califano, sent off and banned for butting during the World Cup, takes over from Cedric Soulette, and will oppose new Wales captain David Young in the forward battle.

Matiu has made himself available for Saturday's clash despite the death last week of his two-month-old daughter. He linked up with the squad after the funeral yesterday.

Behind the scrum, Laporte has juggled his options, of which the most intriguing move is Thomas Castaignede's selection at full-back.

The Castres playmaker has featured as a fly-half and inside centre during his glittering Test career, but now takes on another challenge, having missed most of the World Cup through injury.

World Cup final centre Emile Ntamack reverts to the right wing instead of Philippe Bernat-Salles Thomas Lombard wins a midfield recall while Laporte retains Christophe Lamaison and Fabien Galthie as half-backs.

"I had some selection doubts," Laporte said, "especially between Marc (del Maso) and Raphael (Ibanez), but also between Christophe Lamaison and Alain Penaud or Fabien Galthie and Christophe Laussucq."

"But I will be making five changes during the game. You need new blood during the match. We will be more effective with 20 or 21 players than with 15," he added.

France team to play Wales in the Six Nations Championship at Cardiff on Saturday:

Thomas Castaignede (Castres) - Emile Ntamack (Toulouse), Thomas Lombard (Stade Francais), Richard Dourthe (Dax), Christophe Dominici (Stade Francais), Christophe Lamaison (Brive),
Fabien Galthie (Colomiers) - Olivier Magne (Montferrand), Fabien Pelous (Toulouse-captain), Abdelatif Benazzi (Agen), Olivier Brouzet (Begles Bordeaux), Legi Matiu (Biarritz), Franck Tournaire (Toulouse), Marc Dal Maso (Colomiers), Christian Califano(Toulouse).

Replacements: David Venditti (Brive), Alain Penaud (Toulouse), Christophe Laussucq (Stade Francais), Serge Betsen(Biarritz), Thomas Lievremont (Perpignan), Pieter De Villiers (Stade Francais), Rapahel Ibanez (Perpignan)

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