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Rugby | International Rugby

Michalak to start against Australia



Mercurial Toulon playmaker Frederic Michalak's stop-start international career received a further boost when he was named ahead of Francois Trinh-Duc at fly-half for France against Australia on Saturday.

Michalak's days in the No 10 shirt in Toulon since returning from a second stint with the Sharks in South Africa have been limited, the former Toulouse stalwart instead appearing more often at scrum-half.

The star-studded Toulon squad, coached by former France handler Bernard Laporte, features a backline controlled by England's Jonny Wilkinson, with Australian playmaker Matt Giteau also adept in the fly-half role.

Michalak's utility role is seen as invaluable by Laporte, but was not considered something that would necessarily enhance his chances at nailing down a berth at 10 in the France squad coached by Philippe Saint-Andre.

But that has not stopped Saint-Andre from plumping again for Michalak after he starred in France's summer tour to Argentina.

Accompanying Michalak at half-back will be Maxime Machenaud, who made his debut alongside the 30-year-old 56-time capped Toulonnais in the last match played by Les Bleus, a 59-10 rout of the Argentinians.

It means a spot on the bench for the influential Morgan Parra, the accomplished Clermont scrum-half and goal kicker undoubtedly assured of a valuable role in the second half.

"The selections follow the logic of the last test in Argentina when we were happy with Maxime and Frederic Michalak," Saint-Andre said.

"The choice was also made more simple by the fact that Morgan has only been able to train for three days."

Saint-Andre added that Michalak will take over kicking duties with centre Florian Fritz on call for any long-range pots at goal.

An international debut will be handed to 30-year-old Castres prop Yannick Forestier, preferred at loosehead to Clermont's Thomas Domingo.

Pascal Pape skippers the side from the second row, with Toulouse flanker Yannick Nyanga playing his first international since the ill-tempered third-place play-off of the 2007 World Cup (which France lost 34-10 to Argentina).

Nyanga, who takes over from the injured captain Thierry Dusautoir on the blindside, received not a single call up during the reign of Saint-Andre's predecessor Marc Lievremont.

He will start alongside Louis Picamoles and Fulgence Ouedraogo in the backrow.

There was no place in the match-day 23 for sensational teenage Toulouse centre Gael Fickou, with Fritz teaming up in midfield with Maxime Mermoz.

That means a move to the wing for Clermont's Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin and veteran Vincent Clerc completing the back three.

France team: 15. Brice Dulin; 14. Wesley Fofana; 13. Florian Fritz; 12. Maxime Mermoz, 11. Vincent Clerc; 10. Frederik Michalak; 9. Maxime Machenaud;8. Louis Picamoles; 7. Fulgence Ouedraogo; 6. Yannick Nyanga; 5. Yoann Maestri, 4. Pascal Pape (capt); 3. Nicolas Mas; 2. Dimitri Szarzewski; 1. Yannick Forestier

Replacements: 16. Benjamin Kayser; 17. Thomas Domingo; 18. Vincent Debaty; 19. Jocelino Suta; 20. Damien Chouly; 21. Morgan Parra; 22. Francois Trinh-Duc; 23. Yoann Huget

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