Coach Jacques Brunel said Francois Trinh-Duc will make France more clinical after recalling the experienced fly-half on Thursday to face England in the Six Nations.
Trinh-Duc replaces Lionel Beauxis in the only change to the team that beat Italy 34-17 two weeks ago, ending an eight-match and 11-month winless run.
“We tried to keep a certain stability with only one change,” said Brunel.
“(Against Italy) Beauxis could perhaps have put more pressure on in the danger zones to finish off the chances that were presented.
“Francois Trinh-Duc has trained well and we’re hoping he will bring us that little extra we lacked, notably against Italy because against Italy we were in their 22 15 times and only scored three tries — and that’s not much.”
Beauxis drops to the bench at the Stade de France on Saturday against the reigning champions having started France’s last two matches — a 32-26 defeat to Scotland before the win over Italy.
Trinh-Duc had originally been left out of Brunel’s Six Nations squad but an injury to teenager Matthieu Jalibert in their opening 15-13 defeat to Ireland and the suspension of Anthony Belleau following a controversial night out in Edinburgh after the Scotland defeat saw the 31-year-old recalled to the bench two weeks ago against Italy in Marseille.
Toulon No.10 Trinh-Duc, who has 64 France caps, was given only 10 minutes against Italy, kicking a conversion three minutes after entering the field.
“We train hard all year, all season to play in this match — the ‘crunch’ is the pinnacle of the Six Nations for us,” said a beaming Trinh-Duc.
“I’m very happy, very satisfied. We’re expecting a great match, the English will want to make up for their defeat to Scotland.
“It will be hard, rough, but we have qualities that we need to show.
“In rugby terms they play better than us but sometimes, if we stop them playing, work hard at the break-down, be aggressive in defence like Scotland did then we can make it difficult for them to impose their gameplan.”
His last start in a France shirt came in November’s infamous 23-23 draw at home to Japan — a humiliating result for a country with France’s proud rugby history.
But he will line up inside club team-mate Mathieu Bastareaud at inside centre and Brunel said that too was a factor in his thinking.
– ‘Difficult choice’ –
“It was a difficult choice because on the whole Lionel met our expectations,” said Brunel.
“(Trinh-Duc) has more experience since he’s played more for France than Lionel recently. And then there’s this association with Mathieu Bastareaud, which we hope will give us something extra.
“It was a difficult choice. It wasn’t instant, it’s just a feeling.”
France have been in disarray for years and haven’t fought for a Six Nations title since winning the Grand Slam in 2010 — in fact last year was the only time since then that they finished in the top half.
And Brunel admits there is a bit of fear ahead of a clash against a side that has won 24 out of 26 matches under Australian coach Eddie Jones — during the same period, France have won only eight from 24 encounters.
“I hope there’s no fear of being thrashed because that’s not a very positive attitude,” said Brunel.
“But there is a bit of fear of not being at the level we need to be at to compete, which does create a bit of stress ahead of the match.”
Hugo Bonneval; Benjamin Fall, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Remy Grosso; Francois Trinh-Duc, Maxime Machenaud; Marco Tauleigne, Yacouba Camara, Wenceslas Lauret, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Paul Gabrillagues, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: Adrien Pelissie, Dany Priso, Cedate Gomes Sa, Romain Taofifenua, Kelian Galletier, Baptiste Couilloud, Lionel Beauxis, Gael Fickou
Coach: Jacques Brunel (FRA)
– Agence France-Presse