Scott Spedding will be hoping to replicate last weekend's performance when France take on the Wallabies in Paris on Saturday, reports BRENTON CHELIN.
Spedding has been the subject of much debate regarding nationalisation following his selection for the match against Fiji. His inclusion, along with that of Rory Kockott, split opinion in his adopted nation, with a number of former players coming out in support of, and opposing, their selection.
Against Fiji, the 28-year-old Spedding put all that behind him, choosing instead to let his rugby do the talking. Despite a shaky start for Les Bleus in which he dropped the first two balls that came his way, he was the star performer against the islanders.
Fellow debutant Teddy Thomas might've grabbed a hat-trick, but it was Spedding's direct running and vision from fullback that breathed some much-needed life into the French attack.
France, for all their fanciful flicks and stylised play, hardly tested the Wallabies defence during the June Tests. They managed just three tries in as many matches, while they were unable to trouble the scorers in an insipid Test in Melbourne. It seemed that France – noted for their ability to conjure something from nothing – had run out of ideas.
They were lateral on attack and bullied in the physical exchanges against a side that's not noted for their physicality. Coach Philippe Saint-André was lucky to remain in his job following that debacle, and changes were required.
Against Fiji last weekend with a revamped side, the French looked rejuvenated, although the Wallabies will provide a much sterner examination of their progress.
Saint-André has retained faith in the side that got the job done last weekend, with Spedding and Thomas given the opportunity to build on their impressive debuts.
The Wallabies have seen a change at the helm since that series whitewash in June, with Waratahs' Super Rugby-winning coach Michael Cheika taking over from Ewen McKenzie. Christian Leali'ifano and James Horwill have been restored to the starting lineup after serving as substitutes during the June Tests, while Sean McMahon has emerged as a talented loose forward on the end-of-year-tour.
Australia are still finding their way under the Cheika regime, while a number of French players are still adjusting to the demands of international rugby. It makes for a very open contest and one that could go either way.
The French will need to match the Australians physically. If they do that, there's enough flair in their revamped backline to cause the leaky Wallabies defence trouble on the outside.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Wallabies 26, France 17, Drawn 2
In France: France 13, Wallabies 8, Drawn 1
LAST FIVE RESULTS
2014: Wallabies won 39-13 (Sydney)
2014: Wallabies won 6-0 (Melbourne)
2014: Wallabies won 50-23 (Brisbane)
2012: France won 33-6 (Paris)
2010: Wallabies won 59-16 (Paris)
SPEDDING'S STATS THAT MATTER
80 – The number of minutes he played against Fiji in Marseille
16 – The number of times he carried the ball
195 – The number of running metres he made
6 – The number of defenders he beat
3 – The number of clean breaks he made
France – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Alexandre Dumoulin, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Alexandre Menini.
Subs (from): Benjamin Kayser, Uini Atonio, Xavier Chiocci, Alexandre Flanquart, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Yannick Nyanga, Charles Ollivon, Rory Kockott, Remi Tales, Mathieu Bastareaud, Maxime Mermoz, Maxime Medard.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 James Horwill, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 James Hanson, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Matt Hodgson, 21 Will Genia, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Rob Horne.
Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images