Saint-Andre explains changes

Date published: March 12 2015

Philippe Saint-André wanted to hold back some of his big guns as impact players after making eight changes to the France team.

Les Bleus travel to Italy searching for a first win on Italian soil since 2009, and Saint-André has made sweeping changes from the team that lost to Wales at the Stade de France.

With Wesley Fofana and Rémi Lamerat injured, Maxime Mermoz and Gaël Fickou get the nod in the centres, with the French boss resisting the temptation to start Mathieu Bastareaud.

"Mathieu had a few little issues at the start of the week but he's fine to be in the 23," Saint-André explained. 

"Now, Maxime is in great form and Gaël has been with us for a long time. We prefer to use Mathieu as an impact player. He's capable of adding his power but also that final pass as we saw in the game against Wales."

Elsewhere Loann Goujon will make his first start for France, replacing Damien Chouly in the starting lineup, with the Clermont number eight having disappointed Saint-André in recent games.

"Loann has fitted in well with the squad. He knows the systems and has been working with Yannick Bru for a long time," he added. 

"He's very powerful, intelligent and also good at offloading. It's his opportunity to show he can play more than ten or 15 minutes, and we're putting our faith in him. We know Damien's qualities, but to be honest, we expect more from him and he knows it. He was very indisciplined against Ireland and we expected more against Wales."

The other changes see Romain Taofifenua drop to the bench to be replaced by Alexandre Flanquart, Nicolas Mas gets a start and Brice Dulin is dropped for Scott Spedding.

"This time he (Taofifenua) is a replacement and I hope he'll add some power, desire and great handling when he comes on," said Saint-André. 

"He's very solid in his position and good in mauls. It's not a punishment but we feel that at the moment, he is better in the squad as a replacement and an impact player in the last half-hour against tired players.

"Scott has had a fortnight to recover mentally as much as physically. He's been in great form since the start of the week, he's got a lot of gas and energy back. 

"He also gives us the possibility of having a left-footed player in Camille (Lopez) and a right-footer with him. Brice is recovering from some serious injuries. He's played very well with Racing but can do better for us. It's a choice based on form and I think that Scott is currently a little ahead of Brice."