Parra to play out of position for All Blacks clash
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France coach Marc Lievremont has sprung a major surprise by picking Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra (pictured right) has his No. 10 for the pivotal game against New Zealand's All Blacks on Saturday.
AP - France coach Marc Lievremont has challenged flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc to raise his game at the Rugby World Cup or risk losing his place later on in the tournament.
Trinh-Duc was dropped and replaced by scrumhalf Morgan Parra in the side to play New Zealand on Saturday at Eden Park, even though Parra has never started a match at No. 10 for France.
“I’m waiting for Francois to show me he is a competitor, that he’s better than he’s shown in the last two games. It’s also a kind of test for him,” Lievremont said after naming his team on Tuesday. “How will Francois take this? I’m waiting to see that as well.”
Trinh-Duc is likely to come on at some stage against the All Blacks, and Lievremont wants him to prove him wrong.
“I’m expecting more from him,” Lievremont said. “We’ll see.”
Parra also faces a test of a different kind, as he will likely be pitted against Dan Carter, arguably the best flyhalf in the world.
“I thought about this long into the night, especially the decision about the halfbacks, which wasn’t an easy one,” Lievremont said. “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 flyhalf at club level for three years, and has made two 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,” Lievremont said.
Lievremont has earned a reputation for tinkering with his sides during his four years in charge, and has picked players out of position before - notably moving Aurelien Rougerie inside from the wing to center - and he appears to have done so to shake Trinh-Duc out of his slump.
“I’m expecting him to react. I’m disappointed with his two performances and I’ve told him that,” Lievremont said. “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, Lievremont has clearly issued Trinh-Duc a challenge.
It was a brave move from Lievremont, 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,” Lievremont said.
Trinh-Duc, arguably France’s best player at this year’s Six Nations, was surprisingly gracious about being dropped.
“I accept this decision,” he said. “I am the only one to blame for my performances.”
Lievremont made several changes from the side that beat Canada 46-19 on Sunday, with flanker Thierry Dusautoir returning as captain, hooker Dimitri Szarzewski playing his first match of the tournament, and Dimitri Yachvili coming in at scrumhalf.
Parra kicked five penalties against Canada, including three successive kicks to make it 19-10 after France was struggling at 10-10, but Lievremont said Yachvili will take the kicking duties so Parra can concentrate on his passing.
France will have two left-footed halves, but fullback Damien Traille can also help France’s territorial kicking from deep if New Zealand puts the pressure on.
“I don’t see it being a problem,” Yachvili said. “Damien can always help us out.”
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.
Louis Picamoles retains his place at No. 8 after his impressive performance against Canada, and has a chance to make that position his own ahead of Raphael Lakafia.
“Picamoles has been rewarded for his last match,” Lievremont said. “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.”
Lievremont 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 beat New Zealand in the quarterfinals at the last World Cup, and was the last test side to beat New Zealand at Eden Park, back in 1994. France also beat the All Blacks in Dunedin two years ago.
“This is a unique match, it’s always an honor to play against them in New Zealand,” Lievremont said. “The ultimate would be to play the All Blacks at Eden Park in the final.”
There is a lot of history between the sides, especially at World Cups with France also knocking the All Blacks out of the semifinals in 1999.
“(We should) approach it with a lot of pleasure and a lot of passion, without pressure, just with the pride of honoring our colors,” Lievremont said. “We shouldn’t approach this match with fear in our bellies, but approach it without any complex.”