Wesley Fofana's timely return from injury could spark the French backline against Romania at London's Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
While France were in cruise control for the duration of their 32-10 win against Italy, their backline failed to live up to the 'French flair' tagline as both their tries were scored by props.
Fofana missed out on selection for that game due to a thigh injury, but has recovered in time to face Romania and could prove to be the missing link in the star-studded but misfiring back division.
Regarded as one of the best centres in world rugby and the best in the northern hemisphere, the versatile 27-year-old boasts a skill set like no other in the national squad. He is agile, quick and elusive with an eye for a gap, and the tryline for that matter, and Romania will have to shut him down before a he picks up steam.
Romania have beaten France eight times in the past, but with the last of those wins in 1990; they are not well placed to extend that record. However, many a tier-two nation will draw inspiration from Japan's historic win over the Boks last Saturday, and the Oaks will seek another upset.
France have rotated the bulk of their starting lineup, with wing Noa Nakaitaci and No 8 Louis Picamoles the only survivors from the Italy clash.
Flanker-cum-lock Johan van Heerden, who played for the Pumas and Griffons in the Currie Cup First Division and Vodacom Cup, starts at No 4 for Romania, with Tonga-born outside centre Paula Kinikinilau in midfield.
FOFANA'S STATS THAT MATTER
35 – Test caps
34 – Test starts
11 – Test tries
HEAD TO HEAD
France 39, Romania 8, Draw 2
France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Gael Fickoü, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Bernard le Roux, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Vincent Debaty.
Subs: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Yoann Maestri, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Frédéric Michalak, 23 Mathieu Bastareaud.
Romania – 15 Catalin Fercu, 14 Madalin Lemnaru, 13 Paula Kinikinilau, 12 Florin Vlaicu, 11 Adrian Apostol, 10 Danut Dumbrava, 9 Florin Sagugiu, 8 Mihai Macovei (c), 7 Viorel Lucaci, 6 Valentin Ursache, 5 Johan van Heerden, 4 Valentin Popârlan, 3 Paulică Ion, 2 Otar Turashvili, 1 Mihai Lazar.
Subs: 16 Andrei Radoi, 17 Andrei Ursache, 18 Horace Bags, 19 Ovidiu Tonita, 20 Stelian Burcea, 21 Valentin Calafeteanu, 22 Ionut Botezatu, 23 Csaba Gal.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images