Francois Trinh-Duc picked at flyhalf for France vs. Samoa
PARIS (AP) — Flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc was wanted by France again, this time to face Samoa on Saturday in Toulouse.
Trinh-Duc, who turns 30 on Friday, has been in an out of the Tricolors, and was left out of last year's Rugby World Cup.
Having joined three-time European champion Toulon after 200 games with modest Montpellier, he is seeking to re-establish himself on the international scene.
"He is playing regularly for Toulon so it seemed obvious to me that he should start the season," France coach Guy Noves said on Thursday after announcing his side. "If he's good, he'll stay, if he's less good, we'll talk about it; and if we see that we can no longer help him improve then we'll make decisions."
France's habit of changing its halves pairing is a long-standing trait.
"I often read that there's a permanent questioning in the France team on the subject of the halves pairing," said Noves, who went on to explain that France's backroom staff gave careful consideration before choosing Trinh-Duc ahead of Jules Plisson and Jean-Marc Doussain. "We decided, starting with me, to choose Francois."
Trinh-Duc made his debut in February 2008, and was a mainstay of the side that achieved the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2010 and reached the Rugby World Cup final the following year. Trinh-Duc troubled the All Blacks in the final with his speed and elusive running.
But when Philippe Saint-Andre took charge after that campaign, Trinh-Duc's appearances were sporadic and his form largely inconsistent.
He stands to win his 56th test cap on Saturday in a halves pairing with scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who wins his 24th cap.
Machenaud was preferred to Baptiste Serin, with Machenaud's physical style more suited against the hard-tackling Samoans.
South African-born Scott Spedding starts at fullback, where his kicking game will prove useful to pressure Samoa with territorial gains.
Virimi Vakatawa, a convert from sevens is on the left wing, and Yoann Huget, who has previously played at fullback, on the right.
Wesley Fofana brings pace and power to France's midfield alongside the guile of Clermont teammate Remi Lamerat.
Lock Yoann Maestri, who has 48 caps, brings some much-needed experience to an otherwise raw-looking pack, in which fellow lock Julien Le Devedec and Gourdon will win only their third caps.
France: Scott Spedding, Yoann Huget, Remi Lamerat, Wesley Fofana, Virimi Vakatawa, Francois Trinh-Duc, Maxime Machenaud; Louis Picamoles, Kevin Gourdon, Loann Goujon, Yoann Maestri, Julien Le Devedec, Uni Atonio, Guilhem Guirado, Jefferson Poirot. Reserves: Camille Chat, Cyril Baille, Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Charles Ollivon, Baptiste Serin, Jean-Marc Doussain, Gael Fickou.