Both sides are coming off unconvincing wins last week, with France failing to score a try against Argentina, but they’ll be happy they’ve broken their duck against the Pumas. Although Australia beat Italy 32-14, there were enough recurring concerns for them to again be worried heading into this fixture.
The main talking point among the French changes has been the inclusion of flank Fulgence Ouedraogo. Ouedraogo is in a similar mould to captain Thierry Dusautoir as a scavenging flank, but a major part of their role of ‘hunting’ Quade Cooper will be running down his channel along with the third member of the loose forward triumvirate, Sebastien Chabal.
Cooper said he was happy with his defence versus Italy, but they’re one of the most uncreative teams in world rugby (that includes the Springboks), and his technique will again be scrutinised this week. Les Bleus have some dangerous running midfielders in Yannick Jauzion and Aurelien Rougerie, while Damien Traille also doesn’t mind taking the ball on the advantage line. Cooper’s aptitude for Test rugby will get another severe examination.
The other weakness the Australians possess is their scrum and tight five in general. France will have studied the Wallabies’ loss to England a fortnight ago, and won’t stray from the blueprint. The French pack will again dominate, and the question will be whether they produce a fluid performance behind the set-piece for the first time this season.
Robbie Deans has already complained about refs having pre-conceived ideas about their scrum, but their performances have done nothing to warrant his rant. The Aussies have been weak here, and it’s hurt them, with Deans’s complaint showing how worried he is.
France: 15 Jerome Porical, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Damien Traille, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Sebastien Chabal, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Jérôme Thion, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Jerome Schuster, 18 Romain Millo-Chluski, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Dimitri Yachvili, 21 Fabrice Estebanez, 22 Marc Andreu.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (captain), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Mark Chisholm, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Matt Giteau, 22 Lachie Turner.
Date: Saturday, November 27
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 20.45 (19.45 GMT)
Weather: Light snow expected in the evening, with a low of -1°C and high of 3°C.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Carlo Damasco (Italy)
TMO: Hugh Watkins (Wales)