France, Wales lose captains to injury for Six Nations match

Associated Press
2/7/2013 9:36:35 AM
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PARIS -- France and Wales will be driven by wounded pride when they meet without their captains in the Six Nations on Saturday.

France seek to rebound from another, even more galling loss to Italy in Rome.

For Wales, the wounds run deeper. The Welsh still haven't won since last year's Grand Slam, a miserable run of eight defeats and counting.

Captain Sam Warburton wasn't considered because of a "stinger" injury to his shoulder, but his form made it debatable whether he deserved to be picked again ahead of Justin Tipuric. France counterpart Pascal Pape's absence was clear cut, as he failed to recover from a back injury in the 23-18 loss to Italy.

France paid for underestimating the Italians in an historic loss two years ago. Last weekend, France feebly capitulated in the face of unrelenting pressure, blowing another lead.

"Yes, I am angry. We'll see how the team reacts," France coach Philippe Saint-Andre said. "The team really has to fight back with a strong performance."

Despite his annoyance, Saint-Andre resisted making sweeping changes -- making only one enforced and one tactical switch.

Pape was replaced by lock Jocelino Suta, while Mathieu Bastareaud swapped in for Florian Fritz at centre with the task of stopping Jamie Roberts. Thierry Dusautoir took over as captain.

"We can't throw away everything we did well in November," Saint-Andre said, referring to the autumn test series wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa.

"We all want to bounce back," prop Nicolas Mas said. "It would be crazy to say otherwise -- we have to win."

Wales has not won in France since its 2005 Grand Slam success, and France has won 10 of their last 14 meetings dating to 2000 -- hardly encouraging for Wales given that the current slump is its worst in 10 years.

"We are not in crisis. There is one game down and the tournament is still wide open," fullback Leigh Halfpenny said. "We are the defending champions, and that means something. We have to go out and play like we are champions."

Wales gave the armband to Ryan Jones for a record 30th time. He was recalled on the blindside flank for Aaron Shingler. A third change had hooker Richard Hibbard in for Matthew Rees.

"It's about us maintaining belief, keeping our composure and a cool head and making sure we play the way we train," Jones said. "I've been in changing rooms like the one last week, and I've been in successful ones as well. One thing we've said this week is about picking your chin up and knuckling down."

Saint-Andre echoed those sentiments and gave his players a second chance even though they missed countless tackles and were often dominated in the scrum by the fired-up Italians at Stadio Olimpico.

"There is no excuse for the way we played against Italy. You can't lose the ball in contact 16 times at the highest level and expect to win," Saint-Andre said. "We have faith in the squad but it's up to them to set the record straight."

Saint-Andre has a placid demeanour and is not usually a coach for strong words, but he warned his players that they have to respond.

"It's unacceptable to have regrets at the end of an international match. I don't want to have any regrets on Saturday," he said. "I want us to get our anger back, our desire back, our will to win tackles and to win the ball."



France: Yoann Huget, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Mermoz, Mathieu Bastareaud, Benjamin Fall, Frederic Michalak, Maxime Machenaud; Louis Picamoles, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Yoann Maestri, Jocelino Suta, Nicolas Mas, Dimitri Szarzewski, Yannick Forestier. Reserves: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Romain Taofifenua, Damien Chouly, Morgan Parra, Francois Trinh-Duc, Florian Fritz.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips, Toby Faletau, Justin Tipuric, Ryan Jones (captain), Ian Evans, Andrew Coombs, Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Gethin Jenkins. Reserves: Ken Owens, Paul James, Craig Mitchell, Lou Reed, Aaron Shingler, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Scott Williams.

Sam Warburton (Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)


(Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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