Spedding makes France rugby union debut at full-back

Scott Spedding (left) clashes with Jerome Porical during a match between Bayonne and Lyon at on October 11, 2014 at the Matmut Stadium in Lyon (AFP Photo/Jeff Pachoud)

Paris (AFP) - South African-born full-back Scott Spedding will make his debut for France in the international Test match against Fiji in Marseille on Saturday.

The 28-year-old, who joined Bayonne from Brive in 2012, was brought into the squad on Wednesday for the November Test series by coach Philippe Saint-Andre following an injury to first-choice No.15 Brice Dulin.

With Maxime Medard also struggling for fitness with a groin injury, the door was suddenly opened for him to earn his first cap.

There were also first call-ups for two Racing Metro backs - 25-year-old Alexandre Dumoulin in the centre and 20-year-old Teddy Thomas on the wing.

Saint-Andre also went for a new partnership at half-back in the shape of Sebastien Tillous-Borde of Toulon and Camille Lopez of Clermont. It is the 13th different pairing he has tried since he took over as coach after the World Cup in New Zealand three years ago.

Thierry Dusautoir is retained as captain in a back row also containing South-African-born Bernard Le Roux and Damien Chouly.

The sweeping changes were widely expected after the disappointing summer tour to Australia which saw the French lose all three Tests against the Wallabies.

Saint-Andre came under attack for his selection choices and tactics, but he has been given a vote of confidence to lead France into next year's World Cup in England.

"It's a very well-balanced team," the head coach said. "Very youthful behind the scrum with a half-back pairing that has two players on top form."

On the subject of foreign-born players being capped by France, which has sparked a lively debate in the country with some saying it demeaned the honour, Saint-Andre was adament.

"For me they are all French. They dream of pulling on the French shirt," he said.

Spedding and Le Roux apart, scrum-half Rory Kockott is also born in South Africa, while prop Uini Atonio was born in New Zealand. Both Kockott and Atonio were named among the replacements.

The Fiji match is the first of three lined up for France in November to be followed by Australia and Argentina, both to be played in Paris

France team to play Fiji in Marseille on Saturday, kick-off 1645 GMT (15-1):

Scott Spedding; Yoann Huget, Alexandre Dumoulin, Wesley Fofana, Teddy Thomas; Camille Lopez, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Damien Chouly, Bernard LeRoux, Thierry Dusautoir (capt); Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape; Nicolas Mas, Guilhem Guirado, Alexandre Ménini

Replacements: (from) Benjamin Kayser, Uini Atonio, Xavier Chiocci, Alexandre Flanquart, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Charles Ollivon, Rory Kockott, Remi Tales, Mathieu Bastareaud, Maxime Mermoz