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6 Nations: France makes four changes for Ireland

Updated: February 07, 2012, 08:13


PARIS(AP) Toulouse lock Yoann Maestri will get his first start in a France pack with four changes for the Six Nations home match against Ireland on Saturday.

Forwards Imanol Harinordoquy, Dimitri Szarzewski, and Jean-Baptiste Poux were recalled, while coach Philippe Saint-Andre made no changes on Tuesday to the backline that scored four tries in last weekend's 30-12 win over Italy.

Saint-Andre decided to strengthen his lineout by replacing flanker Julien Bonnaire with Harinordoquy and lock Lionel Nallet with the 2.01-meter Maestri.

Maestri earned his first cap last weekend by replacing Nallet at Stade de France.

"He has improved a lot in his discipline and defense,'' Saint-Andre said of Maestri. "When he came off the bench, he was flawless, he did what was expected from him.

"When the Italians wanted to carry the ball, he stopped them. He was also exceptionally clean at the breakdown.''

Maestri will play a key role in preventing Ireland lock Paul O'Connell from dominating in the air.

"He has everything to be a great lock,'' Saint-Andre said. "He's an interesting option for the lineout. With him, (Pascal) Pape and Imanol, we have three quality jumpers.''

The World Cup runner-up was penalized in scrums and rucks against Italy, leading Saint-Andre to drop hooker William Servat and prop Vincent Debaty and give the nod to Szarzewski and Poux.

However, Saint-Andre kept faith in flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc despite his average performance against Italy and concerns over Ireland's kicking game.

"He played an important role in three of the four tries,'' Saint-Andre said. "In the kicking game, we were poor in our strategy. He missed two short restart kicks, but in the kicking game, we have two or three players who must also kick.''

Ireland lost 23-21 to Wales last weekend.

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France: Maxime Medard, Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu, Francois Trinh-Duc, Dimitri Yachvili; Louis Picamoles, Imanol Harinordoquy, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape, Nicolas Mas, Dimitri Szarzewski, Jean-Baptiste Poux. Reserves: William Servat, Vincent Debaty, Lionel Nallet, Julien Bonnaire, Morgan Parra, Lionel Beauxis, Maxime Mermoz.

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