“Quiet force” Mathieu Bastareaud will captain France in their final Six Nations match against Wales on Saturday after Guilhem Guirado was ruled out with a knee injury. The barnstorming Toulon center has reveled in French colors since his recall to the national team after a ban and again links up with Geoffrey Doumayrou in midfield. Guirado’s place at hooker is taken by Adrien Pelissie, who will make his debut run-on after four caps as a replacement.
Two other changes by coach Jacques Brunel see Cedate Gomes Sa take the place of Rabah Slimani at tighthead prop, while Gael Fickou starts on the right wing, Benjamin Fall moving to full-back in place of injured Hugo Bonneval, who failed a head injury assessment. “Guilhem can’t play, it would have been too risky,” said Brunel of the hooker who was injured in the nail-biting 22-16 victory over England last weekend.
Turning to the 44-times capped Bastareaud, who has been captaining Toulon this season, Brunel said: “For some time he has a sort of serenity which can influence the team. “He’s like a quiet force. We know the weight he can have on the pitch, with or without the ball.” In the front row, it will also be a first start for Gomes Sa, who replaces Slimani, who gave away three costly penalties against England by collapsing the scrum.
“I wouldn’t say that didn’t count, but it’s not linked to that,” said Brunel. “We had a debrief with the referees’ head (Joel Dume) because we didn’t agree with two penalties awarded against Rabah. “We put too much focus on Rabah Slimani and didn’t take into account the positioning of the English and notably the pressure they exerted at the bind, something our captain (Guirado) pointed out at the time.”
Fickou sees his energetic cameo role against England pay off with a start, albeit slightly out of position. “We kept the same set-up in the backline,” Brunel said. “Fickou is not in his usual position (of centre) but he pleased us a lot against England.” France team to play Wales in Six Nations Test match at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday (kick-off 1700 GMT):
Benjamin Fall; Gael Fickou, Mathieu Bastareaud (capt), Geoffrey Doumayrou, Remy Grosso; Francois Trinh-Duc, Maxime Machenaud; Marco Tauleigne, Yacouba Camara, Wenceslas Lauret; Sebastien Vahaamahina, Paul Gabrillagues; Cedate Gomes Sa, Adrien Pelissie, Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: Camille Chat, Dany Priso, Rabah Slimani, Bernard Le Roux, Mathieu Babillot, Baptiste Couilloud, Lionel Beauxis, Geoffrey Palis