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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 08:25 GMT
France turn to Skrela as fly-half
Wasps hooker Raphael Ibanez
Ibanez has won 83 caps for France
France have named David Skrela at fly-half to face Italy in their opening Six Nations match in Rome on Saturday.

The Stade Francais stand-off is back after a six-year break and is paired at half-back with Pierre Mignoni.

Julien Bonnaire has proved his fitness and starts at flanker, while Sale number eight Sebastien Chabal starts for the first time since November 2005.

Wasps hooker Raphael Ibanez captains in place of the injured Fabien Pelous, while Damien Traille is also injured.

We are going to defend our Six Nations title tooth and nail

France team manager Jo Maso

"We want to use the championship to find solutions to our weaknesses. We also want to give some players the opportunity to prove their worth," said team manager Jo Maso.

"Make no mistake, we selected this team to win in Rome. With six months to go before the World Cup, we want to prove that we can win it or are at least quality contenders behind the All Blacks, who are the hot favourites.

"We are going to defend our Six Nations title tooth and nail."

606 DEBATE: What do you think of the France team?

Skrela will start his first international since he won his only cap in June 2001.

He replaces the injured first-choice fly-half Frederic Michalak, and his partnership with Mignoni represents the 28th different half-pack combination since Bernard Laporte became coach in 1999.

Traille, France's star centre who had been playing fly-half in place of Michalak, does not even make the bench after suffering a knock on club duty with Biarritz at the weekend.

"The main question at number 10 is the future of Frederic," said Laporte.

"We don't know if he will come back or not [for the Six Nations]. We gave four games in a row to Damien Traille. Now we want to test David Skrela."

Clermont-Auvergne's Mignoni, 29, gets the nod over regular Les Bleus scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili, while Bourgoin's Bonnaire is named in the starting XV despite concerns about an ankle injury he sustained on Saturday.

Lionel Beauxis, who competes with Skrela for the fly-half berth at Stade Francais, has been drafted into the squad and starts on the bench.

France: Clement Poitrenaud; Cedric Heymans, Florian Fritz, Yannick Jauzion, Christophe Dominici; David Skrela, Pierre Mignoni; Olivier Milloud, Raphael Ibanez (cap), Pieter de Villiers, Lionel Nallet, Jerome Thion, Serge Betsen, Julien Bonnaire, Sebastien Chabal.
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Sylvain Marconnet, Pascal Pape, Imanol Harinordoquy, Dimitri Yachvili, Lionel Beauxis, Vincent Clerc.

Berbizier launches Laporte attack
29 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
Vermeulen injury blow for France
16 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
France name four uncapped players
04 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
Pelous to be fit for Six Nations
19 Dec 06 |  Rugby Union
France edge to win over Argentina
25 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
France 11-23 New Zealand
18 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
France 3-47 New Zealand
11 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
Michalak ruled out of Six Nations
14 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union


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