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Laporte hoping rotation will turn in France's favour

By Gavin Mairs

French coach Bernard Laporte is optimistic that his bold rotation policy will bear rich rewards against Ireland in the do-or-die showdown with Ireland at the Stade de France tomorrow night.

In stark contrast to Ireland, who used only 16 players during their opening two pool matches against the smaller nations Namibia and Georgia, Laporte who has adopted the mantra 'On gagnera à trente' (We will win with 30) for their World Cup campaign, used 27 players.

And 11 of the side that romped to an 87-10 win over Namibia on Sunday have retained their places for the Ireland showdown - meaning no place for galactico centre Yannick Jauzion.

While Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan has been forced to take a risk by inserting rookie Wasps scrum-half Eoin Reddan and play Andrew Trimble in his third different position in a month, in his two tactical changes, Laporte has gone with the majority of the players who brought France's World Cup campaign back on track following their shock reverse to Argentina.

The back-line stays the same from the Namibian rout while the four changes come in the pack, with prop Olivier Milloud, hooker and captain Raphael Ibanez, lock Jerome Thion and flanker Serge Betsen all returning.

Thion replaces Lionel Nallet, meaning that Sale Sharks' long-haired and bearded man mountain Sebastien Chabal remains in the second row.

"We have taken into account our current injuries," said Laporte, who is without Fabien Pelous (knee), Imanol Harinordoquy (thumb) and David Skrela (Achilles).

"So there were 27 players to choose from, and from there we have taken into account the form of the players.

"Some are going through a bad patch after experiencing difficulties against Argentina. We have noticed that some are lacking in training because of injury so they are not at the top of their form. We have had to make some tactical choices as well."

Laporte added he was confident Ibanez had recovered from the blow to the throat he received against Namibia, while winger Christophe Dominici was not selected as he is only just returning to training after a thigh problem.

Meanwhile, as Ireland left their Bordeaux base and travelled to Paris yesterday, Ronan O'Gara has admitted a defeat tomorrow night could smash Ireland's World Cup hopes.

"It's a huge game," said O'Gara, in desperate need of a big performance himself. "We're fully aware of what's at stake. Hopefully it's the game that will kick-start our campaign.

"If it doesn't then the likelihood is we'll be heading home. We owe ourselves a big performance.

"The team has been shook up and a different side that has never played for Ireland will be taking the pitch on Friday.

"Of course the team is hurting because it's been a disappointing few weeks but we can't be too down - there's nothing fatal at the moment. We should be excited by this challenge."

O'Gara, who will have a new half-back partner following Reddan's elevation in place of Peter Stringer, is not concerned about the change.

"My view is that sometimes the half-back combination is overplayed," added O'Gara. " It sometimes suits people to talk about us as a pair but essentially it's not like that. I don't think it will be any different.

"On two Lions tours I played with different scrum-halves and gelled quite quickly, so that isn't an issue for me at all.

"I'd like to be judged on how I perform, not on how well the half-backs perform. Obviously it's up to the individual to get it right.

"I don't look upon it as a risk. Eoin is a good quality player. He's been exceptional for Wasps and deserves his chance."

Belfast Telegraph


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