Preview: France v Australia

Date published: November 18 2016

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France will need a strong performance if they are to beat a revitalised Australia at the Stade de France on Saturday.

The home side are coming off an incredible performance where they ran Samoa ragged scoring seven tries to one, ending with a 52-8 scoreline and dominating almost every statistic.

Australia on the other hand were lucky to scrape past a Scottish side to win 23-22 in Edinburgh. Australia were down by six points with Scotland in the driving seat before the visitors were able to rally and nab a win through a Tevita Kuridrani try in 75th minute. They will need to use this match to remind the Northern Hemisphere of what they're capable of.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika revealed he was loving being in France but said he was wary of the French threat.

"We came in 2014, we won in Wales the first game and then didn't prepare as well the next week against France. I was very new to it all as well at that stage," Cheika told The Age.

"I always love coming here. Sometimes that's the danger, it's too nice. You start hanging around and cruising around instead of focusing on what we're here for.

"I can assure you from having coached over here and now having coached teams coming here, that if you take your eye off the ball for a day and you rock up to Stade de France in front of 80,000 French people, you'll go home accordingly."

French head coach Guy Novès says that Australia are going to be a very different threat to Samoa.

"We suffered for the first four to five minutes against Samoa but we must know that it's going to be the case for 80 minutes against Australia," he told Reuters.

"So defence will be very important. We haven't seen many weak points in their team. They are impressive in the way they keep the ball."

France have made five changes to their side. In the back-three Noa Nakaitaci starts on the right wing in place of Yoann Huget, with full-back Scott Spedding and wing Virimi Vakatawa. Wesley Fofana and Rémi Lamerat make up the midfield. Toulouse player Jean-Marc Doussain will start at fly-half for France. In the forwards Yoann Maestri will join Sébastian Vahaamahina in the second-row while Guilhem Guirado captains the side once again, teaming up with Cyril Baille and Uini Atonio in the front-row. The back row consists of Charles Ollivon, Kévin Gourdon and Louis Picamoles.

Cheika has made 12 changes to his starting side. Will Genia, Henry Speight and Tevita Kuridrani retain their starting spots while David Pocock shifts to the number seven jersey and will captain Australia with Moore named amongst the reserves. Kyle Godwin will partner Kuridrani in the centres.

Players to watch:

For France: Wesley Fofana was astounding last weekend against Samoa. There seemed to be three Fofana's on the field as he was everywhere, going above and beyond his duties of an inside centre. He took crash balls, was incredible on defence while assisting three tries. Since pulling on a French jersey he has been sublime and it should be no different when he takes on the Wallabies.

For Australia: The interesting change of Bernard Foley for Quade Cooper could lead to Australia playing a far more expansive game. Cooper is the epitome of attacking rugby and could set his team alight on Saturday. The fly-half seamlessly blends an astute kicking game, incredible distribution as well as lighting feet and if the Australian pack is going forward expect Cooper to his leave mark on the game.

Head-to-head: The experience of Will Genia versus the electricity of Maxime Machenaud will be interesting considering both players had massive games last weekend. Genia completed 88 passes while organising the defence and the breakdown superbly. While Machenaud set his backline on fire and kept them constantly on the front foot with quick distribution and fantastic vision. Number eights Sean McMahon and Louis Picamoles could also have their say. The two number eights are infamous for their telling runs and will be vital for their sides to get them moving forward.

Previous results:

2014: France won 29-26 in Paris
2014: Australia won 39-13 in Sydney
2014: Australia won 6-0 in Melbourne
2014: Australia won 50-23 in Brisbane
2012: France won 33-6 in Paris
2010: Australia won 59-16 in Paris
2009: Australia won 22-6 in Sydney
2008: Australia won 18-13 in Paris
2008: Australia won 40-10 in Brisbane
2008: Australia won 34-13 in Sydney
2005: France won 26-16 in Marseille
2005: Australia won 37-31 in Brisbane 
2004: France won 27-14 in Paris 

Prediction: France played some wonderful attacking rugby last weekend but Australia should be able to weather it. Australia by 8.

The teams:

France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Rémi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jean-Marc Doussain, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sébastian Vahaamahina, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Guilhelm Guirado (c), 1  Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Gaël Fickou

Australia: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Sefanaia Naivalu, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 James Slipper
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Lopeti Timani, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Bernard Foley, 24 Taqele Naiyaravoro

Date: Saturday, November 19
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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