Rugby-France make five changes for Tonga test


(Changes dateline, adds byline, writes through with quotes)

By Cecile Gres

MARCOUSSIS, France, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Philippe Saint Andre has made five changes to the France starting line-up for the test against Tonga in Le Havre on Saturday, the coach opting to overhaul a side that lost 26-19 to New Zealand last week.

Sofiane Guitoune will make his debut on the wing in place of Yoann Huget, while centre Gael Fickou will start an international for the first time after Florian Fritz was dropped from the squad named by Saint Andre on Thursday.

Fulgence Ouedraogo comes in at openside flanker instead of Wenceslas Lauret and Sebastien Vahaamahina will start in the second row in place of Pascal Pape.

Hooker Dimitri Szarzewski starts in place of Benjamin Kayser, a week after France fell to an eighth successive against the All Blacks.

Behind the scrum, Saint Andre opted to keep scrumhalf Morgan Parra and flyhalf Remi Tales - the pair being the 10th he has tried out since taking over as from Marc Lievremont following the 2011 World Cup, where France lost 19-14 to Tonga in the group phase.

"It is the only time in my career that something like this happened to me, the Tonga players openly making fun of us," Szarzewski told reporters.

Tonga lost 19-18 against Romania last weekend.

"In the rucks, they are very aggressive, I know some of them because they play in the French Top 14 and it is true that they can go hard," said Tales.

"We know how physical they can be," added fullback Brice Dulin.

"It can become difficult so we have to challenge them like we challenged the All Blacks last weekend."

France have lost seven of their nine games in 2013 and Saint Andre said he could not wait to take away "the bitter taste of defeat" from his mouth.

France will conclude their November test series on Nov. 23 against South Africa.


15-Brice Dulin, 14-Sofiane Guitoune, 13-Gaƫl Fickou, 12-Wesley Fofana, 11-Maxime Medard, 10-Remi Tales, 9-Morgan Parra, 8-Damien Chouly, 7-Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6-Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5-Yoann Maestri, 4-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3-Nicolas Mas, 2-Dimitri Szarzewski, 1-Yannick Forestier

Replacements: 16-Benjamin Kayser, 17-Vincent Debaty, 18-Rabah Slimani, 19-Pascal Pape, 20-Bernard Le Roux, 21-Jonathan Pelissie, 22-Frederic Michalak, 23-Mathieu Bastareaud (Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Justin Palmer)

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