Picamoles, Iturria in from cold for France vs Springboks
PARIS (AP) — No. 8 Louis Picamoles and flanker Arthur Iturria have come in from the cold to start for France against the Springboks on Saturday.
The test at Stade de France will be their first since they were dropped in February following a night of drinking in Edinburgh during the Six Nations.
South Africa recalled Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux and Franco Mostert as starters after they became available, but lock Eben Etzebeth lost his race to be fit to play after injuring a foot last weekend in the loss to England at Twickenham.
Picamoles, who has 69 caps, and Iturria, who has three, were among a group sanctioned following a loss to Scotland. The group went out drinking, causing police inquries and the flight home to be delayed.
Of Iturria, coach Jacques Brunel said: “He is physically fit at last and can bring a lot of quality, especially in terms of technique and intelligence.”
Others who were sanctioned returned in June during the tour of New Zealand, including flyhalf Anthony Belleau, center Remi Lamerat, winger Teddy Thomas, and lock Felix Lambey. Only squad players Jonathan Danty and Sekou Macalou have yet to make the Tricolors again.
Stade Francais center Gael Fickou couldn’t break into the starting XV despite excellent domestic form, and was on the bench.
Damian Penaud, whose five previous caps were at center, will make his debut as a winger, opposite Thomas.
“Fickou is in good form, but for this first game we preferred to keep the collaboration we had with (Mathieu) Bastareaud and (Geoffrey) Doumayrou at center,” Brunel said.
“And on the wing, Penaud has been playing one good match after another. Also, it’s likely there will be a lot of pressure in the kicking game and I believe Damian has a little edge in this area.”
Maxime Medard will start at fullback, while Brunel chose to pair flyhalf Camille Lopez and scrumhalf Baptiste Serin.
Since he took over last December, Brunel has recorded only mediocre results, winning just two matches against Italy and England in the Six Nations, followed by three straight defeats in New Zealand in June.
South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus didn’t hesitate to summon de Klerk, le Roux and Mostert, who weren’t available for the England game because it was out of the test window. He also picked other European-based players, prop Vincent Koch, flanker Francois Louw and utility back Cheslin Kolbe in the reserves.
“You need as much experience as possible playing away from home,” Erasmus said.
South Africa dominated England but blew the match with errors and lost 12-11.
“The conditions here in the northern hemisphere demand a different approach and while we created a lot of opportunities last week we have to better with our execution,” Erasmus said.
France: Maxime Medard, Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Damian Penaud, Camille Lopez, Baptiste Serin; Louis Picamoles, Arthur Iturria, Wenceslas Lauret, Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Cedate Gomes Sa, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Jefferson Poirot. Reserves: Camille Chat, Dany Priso, Rabah Slimani, Paul Gabrillagues, Mathieu Babillot, Antoine Dupont, Anthony Belleau, Gael Fickou.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Warren Whiteley, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff. Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Embrose Papier, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe.