France seek to end England’s bid for grand slam
Fading French make seven changes to thwart hosts’ march on perfect Six Nations at Twickenham
Rarely can France have been in such need of a win at Twickenham as they will be when they try to salvage a flagging season by stopping England's bid for a Six Nations grand slam in its tracks today.
Pre-tournament favourites France, arguably just one refereeing decision away from winning the 2011 World Cup final, are now bottom of the Six Nations table after defeats by Italy and Wales.
Yet for all it is a cliché, no side in world rugby has the capacity to go from the supine to sublime in the space of a couple of matches like "Les Bleus".
And much-criticised coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who as a dashing France wing had a key role in some sensational test tries, tried to rally his side by urging them to live up to the best traditions of French rugby
"The English will start favourites," he said. "We will have to show all our qualities of being French on Saturday - that means being brave, daring, unpredictable and to take the fight to them.
"When we are able to do that, we are able to pose problems for any team in the world."
It is 31 years since France had such a wretched start to a championship and Saint-Andre has responded by making seven changes and a positional switch.
Significantly, Saint-Andre has recalled scrumhalf Morgan Parra, regarded by some judges as the best No9 in Europe, and flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc.
Out go Maxime Machenaud and the misfiring Frederic Michalak, picked at stand-off for the opening two matches even though he is playing inside former England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon.
Italy and Wales face off at Rome's Olympic Stadium today, while injury-hit Ireland are set to meet Scotland at Murrayfield tomorrow.