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Six Nations Gael Fickou given the nod to start for France against Ireland on Saturday

Last Updated: 13/03/14 12:51pm

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Gael Fickou has been given the nod to start this weekend

Gael Fickou has been given the nod to start this weekend

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Exciting youngster Gael Fickou will start for France in Saturday's crucial Six Nations clash with Ireland at the Stade de France.

Boss Phillipe Saint-Andre has made four changes to his side following Saturday's somewhat unconvincing 19-17 win in Scotland.

The 19-year-old Fickou comes in at centre for Maxime Mermoz while Louis Picamoles, who usually plays at number eight, returns as flanker in place of Sebastien Vahaamahina, who drops to the bench.

"I don't want to say any more regarding our strategy, as I'm sure there are Irish journalists in the room."
Phillipe Saint-Andre

Fickou will be making his first start of the tournament, having come off the bench to score the winning try in the 26-24 victory over England with which the French began their campaign.

"He is in form, he has speed," Saint-Andre told sports.fr. "We need to see his talent expressed from the start with a true challenge alongside Mathieu Bastaraud and against two great Ireland centres (O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy). We have confidence in him.

"It's a logical step with relation to the squad and the work he has done. Attacking-wise, he can bring us very interesting solutions because of his speed, his youth and his audacity."

Dimitri Szarzewski replaces Brice Mach as hooker having recovered from an ankle injury while Remi Tales has been selected at fly half in place of Jules Plisson, who has been dropped completely from the squad.

But Saint-Andre insisted: "This isn't a punishment for Jules, but more of a strategic decision for the Ireland match.

Alternate

"Picamoles will alternate with Damien Chouly during the game.

"But I don't want to say any more regarding our strategy, as I'm sure there are Irish journalists in the room."

England, France and Ireland all have six points going into the final round of matches but Ireland's vastly superior points difference means that, if they win in Paris, England would need to win by a huge margin in Italy to snatch the title.

However, a France win over Ireland would leave England in pole position to claim just their second title since 2003.

France: Dulin, Huget, Bastareaud, Fickou, Medard, Tales, Machenaud, Lapandry, Chouly, Picamoles, Maestri, Pape (capt), Mas, Szarzewski, Domingo

Replacements: Guirado, Debaty, Slimani, Flanquart, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Doussain, Mermoz

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