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Star centre Bastareaud returns for France against England

by kenya-tribune

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Centre Mathieu Bastareaud returns for France’s Six Nations fixture against England on Sunday as South Africa-born lock Paul Willemse is dropped to the bench among six changes, the French Rugby Federation announced.

The experienced Bastareaud, who has 50 caps, was not included for last weekend’s loss to Wales in the competition’s opening game but is recalled for the trip to Twickenham.

La Rochelle’s Geoffrey Doumayrou joins Bastareaud in the midfield as Wesley Fofana is sidelined by a thigh injury and teenager Romain Ntamack falls to the bench.

Coach Jacques Brunel said Bastareaud was being recalled to counter England’s physical strength.

“We know the impact he will have. Against the power they have in midfield which has been strengthened by Manu Tuilagi he can have an interesting impact,” Brunel said.

“He’s important for the team as a whole. It’s important that he starts because he’s an important option to face England,” he added.

Bastareaud said he was too old to have bitter feelings after missing out on selection last week.

“I’m 30, I’ve learned to be above the idea of being vengeful. Choices were made, you can like them or dislike them, but you have to accept them,” he said.

“We’re going to England without much to lose because everyone thinks we’re going to get thrashed. We have to go there and try things. It’s up to us to go there and cause problems,” he added.

Bastareaud and Doumayrou were Brunel’s starting midfield partnership for six of 11 games last year including the 22-16 Six Nations victory over Eddie Jones’ team in Paris.

Willemse, who made his France debut against Warren Gatland’s side, is replaced by 24-year-old Felix Lambey who will start his first Test match after three appearances as a substitute.

The other changes see youngster Demba Bamba start his maiden Test at tight-head prop instead of injured Uini Atonio, flanker Yacouba Camara is in for Wenceslas Lauret who misses out completely and Stade Francais’ Gael Fickou is brought in on the left wing.

The shuffle of the back three is forced because of Maxime Medard’s thigh problem as Yoann Huget wears the full-back’s shirt.

Toulouse pair Thomas Ramos and Dorian Aldegheri could make their international debuts as replacements.

France team for the Six Nations match against England at Twickenham on Sunday (6pm EAT):

Yoann Huget, Damien Penaud, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geffroy Doumayrou, Gael Fickou; Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra; Louis Picamoles, Arthur Iturria, Yacouba Camara, Felix Lambey, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Demba Bamba, Guilhem Guirado, Jefferson Poirot

Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Dany Priso, Dorian Aldegheri, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos

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