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Page last updated at 09:16 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

France surprise with Baby at 10

Venue: Stade de France Date: Friday, 27 February Kick-off: 2000 GMT
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC Two and online, full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales and online, live text commentary and score updates on BBC Sport website

Benoit Baby
Clermont Auvergne's Benoit Baby has played most of his rugby at centre

France coach Marc Lievremont has taken a major gamble by selecting Benoit Baby at fly-half for Friday's RBS Six Nations match against Wales in Paris.

Baby, normally a centre, gets the nod over Francois Trinh-Duc, while Morgan Parra comes in at scrum-half for the benched Sebastien Tillous-Borde.

Trinh-Duc starts on the bench, while Mathieu Bastareaud is handed a debut at centre alongside Yannick Jauzion.

Maxime Medard reverts to full-back and Sebastien Chabal is recalled at lock.

Sale Sharks favourite Chabal returns in place of Romain Millo-Chluski, who drops to the bench.

Elsewhere in the forwards Sylvain Marconnet is drafted into the front row and will make his 72nd appearance for France, equalling the prop record held by Christian Califano.

Benoit Baby has all the qualities to play in that position [fly-half] even if he rarely plays there for his club

France coach Marc Lievremont

The Stade Francais veteran was called into the squad last week as a result of injuries suffered by Nicolas Mas and Benoit Lecouls.

Among the backs, Medard's reversion to full-back in place of Toulouse team-mate Clement Poitrenaud sees Julien Malzieu coming in on the wing.

In all there are five personnel changes to the team which started the 22-13 win over Scotland a week and a half ago.

Les Bleus lost their first match of the tournament 30-21 to Ireland in Dublin.

Trinh-Duc was called up on Monday as a replacement for the injured Lionel Beauxis, while Bastareaud also got the call thanks to an injury to Maxime Mermoz.

Defence will be the key - Harinordoquy

Lievremont had been expected to send for Toulouse fly-half David Skrela, but instead went for 22-year-old Trinh-Duc.

But although the Montpellier youngster is on the bench, Lievremont's choice of Baby and Parra as his starting half-backs means Les Bleus will go into the Stade de France encounter without a specialist goalkicker.

Parra will take over kicking duties, something he has done only once before - against England in last year's Six Nations when he was successful with his only attempt.

Lievremont insisted he was left with no choice but to go with Baby after seeing first-choice fly-half Beauxis injure his back while playing for Stade Francais against Toulon in the Top 14 last Friday.

"We regret the withdrawal of Lionel Beauxis," he said. "Events therefore dictate our choice.

"We know it's not ideal - we need our best team against Wales. Francois [Trinh-Duc] only arrived on Monday.

"We think he [Baby] has all the qualities to play in that position even if he rarely plays there for his club. We have confidence in Benoit Baby."


The hulking Bastareaud, 20, has been in superb form for Stade Francais this season, his rampaging and aggressive style of play making him a firm fans' favourite.

"We had to choose [who to call up] between Mathieu Bastareaud and Damien Traille, but Traille is ill and only played an hour [for his club at the weekend] while Florian Fritz is still suspended," said Lievremont.

"Mathieu has the profile to come into this team and bring his determination and power. He has played well for Stade.

"And we are conscious he has only come into the squad four days before the match."

Bastareaud was called up by Les Bleus in 2007 for the summer tour to New Zealand but had to pull out because of a knee injury.

Centre Fritz remains suspended after picking up a three-week ban after being cited for alleged eye gouging in their opening game against Ireland, which France lost 30-21 in Dublin.

France: Maxime Medard (Toulouse); Julien Malzieu (Clermont-Auvergne), Mathieu Bastareaud (Stade Francais), Yannick Jauzion, Cedric Heymans (both Toulouse); Benoit Baby (Clermont-Auvergne), Morgan Parra (Bourgoin); Fabien Barcella (Biarritz), Dimitri Szarzewski, Sylvain Marconnet (both Stade Francais), Lionel Nallet (Castres, capt), Sebastien Chabal (Sale), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz).
Replacements: Benjamin Kayser (Leicester), Thomas Domingo (Clermont-Auvergne), Romain Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), Louis Picamoles (Montpellier), Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Castres), Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Clement Poitrenaud (Toulouse).

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