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Preview: Australia v France

06th June 2014 07:07

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Wallabies in new jersey for photoshoot

Captain: Stephen Moore

Like the debacle that sees England unable to pick their league finalists, France are in the same boat for this Saturday's opener with Australia.

None of Toulon nor Castres representatives who played in the Top 14 final have been named by Philippe Saint-André as again changes are made.

Such inconsistency in selection - this weekend enforced - mean there are chances for players on the periphery to state their case before the World Cup. One such man is Frédéric Michalak but even he must be scratching his head as he could not make the Toulon 23 last week while, get this, Montpellier's Francois Trinh-Duc has been left out of the tour squad but is named in Les Bleus' elite crop for the 2014/15 campaign. Explain that one.

That group who'll be well rested next season is a step in the right direction for France as the club game's success has not been replicated by the national setup. An explanation has surely be requested of Saint-André regarding this form, which reads five wins out of sixteen since January 2013, and one fears that could be five in nineteen once these Tests run their course. What then for a quality group that continues to frustrate?

Chances of opening June with a win would have been higher had Louis Picamoles and Thierry Dusautoir been starting but the latter has been deemed not 100 percent after a biceps injury and will return next week. Picamoles, however, has been overlooked.

Australia are too without a player possessing an aura such as Picamoles' as the mercurial Quade Cooper watches on from the sidelines due to injury. His spot has gone to in-form Waratahs fly-half Bernard Foley, who has been flourishing behind a solid pack in Sydney.

Like Saint-André, Wallaby boss Ewen McKenzie hasn't been afraid to ruffle a few feathers in his selection as Will Genia doesn't feature on his home patch while former Reds star and now Rebels number eight Scott Higginbotham also drops out. Veteran James Horwill settles with a place on the bench, with McKenzie handing a debut to second-row Sam Carter, who is another deserving of the call-up, with Stephen Moore stepping up to lead.

Some may say it is symptomatic of the pressure of losing more games than they won in 2013 but they'd be wrong as McKenzie is rightly rewarding form. Nic White and Foley have been great while Matt Toomua continues to grow as an international, whether at 10 or 12.

But how can we preview Australia without mentioning Israel Folau, who announced himself to the rugby union world against the British and Irish Lions and has been breaking new ground in Super Rugby ever since. Eleven tries in ten games so far this season has been a remarkable achievement and we don't expect him to show any signs of slowing down. In fact, he could kick on in June and embarrass France, possibly leaving PSA with his P45.

Ones to watch:

For Australia: Philippe Saint-André this week likened Michael Hooper to George Smith ahead of this Series. Having coached when he was in charge of Toulon, Saint-André is reminded of Smith when he watches Hooper's dominance at the breakdown. It's also his work in the loose that catches the eye as the Waratahs player is so fast over the ground.

For France: He may struggle for game time at Toulon - who wouldn't with Jonny Wilkinson in attendance - but on Saturday fly-half Frédéric Michalak has a big opportunity to press his case for the ten jersey. For so long the problem position for Les Bleus, Michalak must bark orders, kick well and play the game on his own terms if France are to stand a chance.

Head-to-head: The recent form of Tevita Kuridrani has seen him make ground with almost every carry so Gaël Fickou has to be a rock in defence at Suncorp Stadium. Fickou moves out one position from his usual club role which is another question that needs answering from the Toulouse player, as defending at twelve and thirteen are different challenges.

Recent results:

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

Prediction: The hosts will be much more cohesive with ball in hand. Wallabies by 15!

The teams:

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 James Horwill, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Pat McCabe.

France: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Felix le Bourhis, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 3 Nicolas Mas (c), 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Antoine Burban, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Remi Lamerat, 23 Brice Dulin.

Date: Saturday, June 7
Kick-off: 20:00 local (11:00 BST, 10:00 GMT)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

  • Australia Fixtures
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Saturday , October 18
Australia vs New Zealand10:00
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Saturday , August 16
Australia vs New Zealand11:05
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New Zealand vs Australia08:35
Saturday , September 6
Australia vs South Africa11:05
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Australia vs Argentina11:05
Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Saturday , October 4
Argentina vs Australia23:40
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Saturday , June 21
Australia 39 - 13 FranceAustralia vs France Report
Saturday , June 14
Australia 6 - 0 FranceAustralia vs France Report
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PosTeamPPts
1New Zealand628
2South Africa619
3Australia69
4Argentina62