France will welcome back a number of big guns for the second Test in Melbourne, but none bigger than Mathieu Bastareaud, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
The Toulon centre, commonly referred to as 'Le Tank', could only helplessly watch on as his team were torn to shreds by Australia's talented backline in the first Test.
Having been a member of France's Junior World Championship-winning team in 2006, the 25-year old has long been touted as a future star. Time is running out if he is to make the impact many expected, and Saturday's match against a lightweight Australian midfield will give him the chance to do just that.
His pairing with Wesley Fofana has the ability to do damage, on paper at least. Much will depend on whether the French can get quality possession of the ball, something they failed to do in Brisbane.
The French were on the back foot for large portions of that match, mainly due to their inability to consistently match the Australians at the set piece. Their defence meanwhile, was nothing short of shambolic.
Coach Philippe Saint-André has reacted by making 10 changes split evenly between the backs and forwards. The 2011 IRB Player of the Year Thierry Dusautoir returns to lead the side, while Yannick Nyanga will complement him at the breakdown. Morgan Parra and Rémi Talès form yet another halfback combination, as Saint-André continues to tinker with his first-choice team.
The Aussies will also field a different captain after Stephen Moore was ruled out for the rest of the year. Waratahs flank Michael Hooper will skipper the side, while former captain James Horwill makes a return to the run-on team.
The backline that was so effective in Brisbane remains unchanged.
HEAD TO HEAD STATS
Overall: Australia 24, France 17, Drawn 2
In Australia: Australia 15, France 4, Drawn 1
BASTAREAUD'S STATS THAT MATTER
23 – The number of Test matches he has played
2 – The number of Test tries he has scored
120 – His weight in kilograms
Australia – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Pat McCabe.
France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Alexandre Menini.
Subs: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Bernard le Roux, 20 Louis Picamoles, 21 Antoine Burban, 22 Frédéric Michalak, 23 Remi Lamerat.
Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images