Youngsters at halfback 'a sporting decision' insists France coach Brunel

Youngsters at halfback 'a sporting decision' insists France coach Brunel

The general view that France coach Jacques Brunel had dropped both his halfbacks from the squad because of their criticism of the management following the loss to England ‒ their biggest in 108 years ‒ isn’t true.

So says coach Brunel, who insists that Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez's omission from France's Six Nations squad to face Scotland on Scotland is a sporting decision and nothing more. The two halfbacks, both from the Clermont Auvergne club, started in the two opening matches of this year’s Six Nations-pair ‒ a 24-19 defeat at home to Wales before the 44-8 hammering at Twickenham last time out.

On Tuesday Brunel announced his side to take on Scotland in Paris on Saturday, with the two youngsters, 22-year-old Antoine Dupont and 19-year-old Romain Ntamack as the new halfbacks.

Asked by if he still included Parra as part of his plans for the World Cup later this year, Brunel replied: "Of course," before it was put to him that the decision to drop him and Lopez would be seen as punishment for their remarks after the Twickenham thrashing.

"What can I say to that? I'm telling you, no, and you're saying otherwise," Brunel replied. "I can't tell you anything more. Ask them, you'll see what they tell you.

Brunel is not concerned at selecting Ntamack at number 10, even though he regularly operates at centre for Toulouse and started in that position against Wales.

"That is not a problem. To have spoken with him, I know that he has no particular preference, he evolves in a position of centre with Toulouse, but at the same time he is an organiser of the game," the coach added.

"If we ever had any doubt, we wouldn't have done it."

Is it a gamble to start with the youngsters? The reality is that Scotland haven’t won in Paris since 1999, and Brunel says the two young halfbacks did make a difference when they came on against England.

The other changes are Thomas Ramos who makes his first start at fullback in place of Yoann Huget who returns to the wing. Gael Fickou returns to centre, with Geoffrey Doumayrou dropping out of the squad. 

In the forwards Wenceslas Lauret replaces Yacouba Camara at openside flanker, with loosehead prop Etienne Falgoux to make a possible debut from the bench. Baptiste Serin, Anthony Belleau and Maxime Medard are the backs among the replacements.

The team ‒

15. Thomas Ramos, 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Mathieu Bastareaud, 12. Gael Fickou, 11. Yoann Huget, 10. Romain Ntamack, 9. Antoine Dupont; 1. Jefferson Poirot, 2. Guilhem Guirado (captain), 3. Demba Bamba, 4. Sebastien Vahaamahina, 5. Felix Lambey, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 7. Arthur Iturria, 8. Louis Picamoles. Replacements: 16. Camille Chat, 17. Etienne Falgoux, 18. Dorian Aldegheri, 19. Paul Willemse, 20. Gregory Alldritt, 21. Baptiste Serin, 22. Anthony Belleau, 23. Maxime Medard.