France coach Brunel makes 2 changes to face Fiji
PARIS (AP) — Fullback Benjamin Fall and prop Rabah Slimani will start France's final November test against Fiji on Saturday.
Coach Jacques Brunel made them the only changes on Thursday to the side that beat Argentina last weekend to end a five-test losing streak. Fall replaces Maxime Medard, who was concussed against the Pumas, and Slimani was preferred to Cedate Gomes Sa.
"It's a reward for the performance of Slimani who made a very satisfactory substitute appearance (against the Springboks)," Brunel said. "He was good in the key sectors and more present in the loose, as I'd asked of him. This start is to encourage him in that sense."
The rest of the team was unchanged, with the halfback pairing of Camille Lopez and Baptiste Serin retained, and Gael Fickou keeping a midfield partnership with Mathieu Bastareaud.
After losing to South Africa in the last minute, France recovered against Argentina and wants to start a winning streak at the Stade de France.
"A group is born," wing Yoann Huget said. "We work with a lot of pleasure, confidence, and the desire to give even more to go further with this group."
Brunel was less conservative with his bench, calling up former France Under-20s tighthead prop Demba Bamba and Toulouse hooker Julien Marchand for possible test debuts alongside Felix Lambey and Kelian Galletier.
Seeking a first ever win over France, Fiji coach John McKee made one change to the side that lost 54-17 to Scotland two weeks ago. Toulon wing Josua Tuisova starts, and Metui Talebula switches to fullback.
Fiji recovered from the Scotland disappointment by thrashing Uruguay 68-7 last weekend in Hartpury.
"Against Uruguay we kept our standards up right through the game, not only in attack but worked hard in defense," McKee said. "Having another week of preparation and game behind us holds us in good stead for the final test in the series.
"We know that once again we must be on top of our game in our team defense and to counter their maul."
France: Benjamin Fall, Teddy Thomas, Gael Fickou, Mathieu Bastareaud, Yoann Huget, Camille Lopez, Baptiste Serin; Louis Picamoles, Arthur Iturria, Wenceslas Lauret, Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Jefferson Poirot. Reserves: Julien Marchand, Dany Priso, Demba Bamba, Felix Lambey, Kelian Galletier, Antoine Dupont, Anthony Belleau, Geoffrey Doumayrou.
Fiji: Metuisela Talebula, Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra, Jale Vatabua, Vereniki Goneva, Ben Volavola, Frank Lomani; Viliame Mata, Peceli Yato, Dominiko Waqaniburotu (captain), Leone Nakarawa, Tevita Cavubati, Manasa Saulo, Sam Matavesi, Campese Maafu. Reserves: Mesulame Dolokoto, Eroni Mawi, Kalivati Tawake, Albert Tuisue, Semi Kunatani, Henry Seniloli, Alivereti Veitokani, Eroni Sau.