PARIS (AP) — France will take on New Zealand fielding a new halves pairing in Saturday's test match with scrumhalf Morgan Parra paired alongside inexperienced flyhalf Remi Tales.
Coach Philippe Saint-Andre chose Parra ahead of Jean-Marc Doussain because of his superior kicking ability. Parra, who has 51 caps, was kicker at the 2011 World Cup, where France lost 8-7 against New Zealand in a tightly contested final.
"Morgan's experience counts, as well as his ability as a quicker. Jean-Marc's only the second or third kicker at Toulouse," Saint-Andre said. "We need to be strong defensively and we need a long kicking game."
Flanker Wenceslas Lauret wins only his fourth cap, while lock Pascal Pape returns to the side for the first time since limping off injured against Italy in the Six Nations in February. "He's a similar type of player to Thierry Dusautoir, who is very active and very quick," Saint-Andre said of Lauret. "He's strong in the contact and in the one-on-ones."
Since the World Cup final, France has lost three times to the All Blacks on a tour in June — including a 30-0 rout — although Saint-Andre experimented with players in those games. "What's important is for the players to believe in themselves and play without the handbrake on. We have to be well organized and fight as much as possible, but fight intelligently," Saint-Andre said. "We know the quality of the All Blacks, but we're not going to be sparring partners. The players know they just missed out on victory there (in the World Cup final) and there wasn't much missing."
Fullback Brice Dulin has only seven caps and is likely to face a stern test at Stade de France. Wesley Fofana and Florian Fritz give France a muscular presence in midfield, while Maxime Medard and Yoann Huget will start on the wings. Damien Chouly makes his 11th test appearance at No. 8 and Benjamin Kayser starts at hooker with the more experienced Dimitri Szarzewski left on the bench.
Despite fielding a relatively inexperienced side, Saint-Andre maintains France can compete. "The players are ready mentally," he said. "Whenever we're in the contact zone, we will try and win as many challenges as possible to rob New Zealand of as much possession as possible. We'll have to be very good in defense."
France finished last in the Six Nations for the first time since the tournament was formed 13 years ago.
France: Brice Dulin, Yoann Huget, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard, Remi Tales, Morgan Parra; Damien Chouly, Wenceslas Lauret, Thierry Dusautior (captain), Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape, Nicolas Mas, Benjamin Kayser, Yannick Forestier.
Reserves: Dimitri Szarzewski, Vincent Debaty, Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Antoine Claassen, Jean-Marc Doussain, Camille Lopez, Gael Fickou.