Rather than choose between scrum-halves Morgan Parra and Dimitri Yachvili, France coach Marc Lièvremont has done what only he could…he has picked both to face the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday.
As result, France will have an all-new half-back pair for their most important game in four years.
Regular fly-half François Trinh-Duc, who started both of France’s games so far and has been one of the few regular features of the French team during the Lièvremont era, is left on the bench.
Elsewhere, full-back Damien Traille and loose forwards Louis Picamoles and Julien Bonnaire are rewarded for their strong performances against Canada.
Up front, hooker Dimitri Szarzewski starts his first game of the tournament, allowing William Servat to take a break on the bench.
Aurélien Rougerie and Maxime Mermoz will play in midfield together for just the second time. Their only other game as pair was back in March when France beat Scotland in the Six Nations.
Maxime Medard comes in at left wing, with Rougerie reverting back from playing on the wing against Canada to center in place of David Marty, who had a poor match against the Canadians.
Parra has never started a match at 10 for France and will likely be pitted against Dan Carter, arguably the best fly-half in the world, at Eden Park.
“I thought about this long into the night, especially the decision about the half-backs, which wasn’t an easy one,” said Lièvremont.
“Francois Trinh-Duc is paying the price a bit for the last two games, and Morgan has done very well when he’s played.”
Parra has not played fly-half at club level for three years, and has made two just fleeting appearances for France in this position.
“Even though he’s not the biggest of lads, he’s very courageous and I trust the backrow will protect him,” added Lièvremont.
Lièvremon appears attempting to shake Trinh-Duc out of his slump in form.
“I’m expecting him to react. I’m disappointed with his two performances and I’ve told him that,” explained the coach
“He has trouble accepting when he’s underperformed, which is a necessary thing to be a champion.”
With utility back Jean-Marc Doussain having arrived from France late Monday, and expected to feature against Tonga in the final Pool A game, Lièvremont has clearly issued Trinh-Duc a challenge.
It was a brave move from the coach, seeing as Trinh-Duc has been his first-choice flyhalf for three years.
“There will be competition for places, perhaps there hasn’t been enough of that for Francois,” said Lièvremont.
“Picamoles has been rewarded for his last match. “I’ve always reproached him for his inconsistency, now he has the chance to show he can play two good matches at the highest level. It’s up to him to see if he can take it.”
Lièvremont. had considered waiting until Thursday to name his team on the same day as New Zealand, but he does not expect much chopping and changing in the All Blacks team.
“I’m not expecting any big surprises, except the name of the center who will play with Conrad Smith,” he said.
“I expect to see the best of the All Blacks in this match.”
France 15 Damien Traille, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Morgan Parra, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Pascale Papé, 4 Lionel Nallet, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 William Servat, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Francois Trinh-Duc, 21 Fabrice Estebanez, 22 Cédric Heymans.
Date: Saturday, September 24
Kick-off: 20.30 ( 08.30 GMT)
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)