Rugby-France overhaul team for U.S. clash as weather concerns ease
FUKUOKA, Japan, Sept 30 (Reuters) - France coach Jacques Brunel has completely overhauled his team for their second Rugby World Cup Pool C game against the United States in Fukuoka on Wednesday with Louis Picamoles named to captain his country for the first time.
The three-times World Cup finalists got their campaign off to a good start in their opener against Argentina last week, racing out to a big lead then holding on to beat the Pumas 23-21.
Experienced flyhalf Camille Lopez, who came off the bench to slot the winning drop goal against the Argentines, has been rewarded with a start against the Eagles.
Only blindside flanker Arthur Iturria, centre Gael Fickou and winger Yoann Huget were retained from the starting line-up from the match at Tokyo Stadium as Brunel gave his squad players the chance to shine.
With regular captain Guilhem Guirado benched, Picamoles will lead the team from number eight in his 81st test, having come off the bench to make an influential contribution in the victory over Argentina.
France lost tighthead prop Demba Bamba for the tournament after he injured a thigh muscle in training on Friday so Rabah Slimani, who started against the Pumas, backs up from the bench pending the arrival of squad replacement Cedate Gomes Sa.
Flyhalf Romain Ntamack and fullback Maxime Medard, who both started last week, were also named among the replacements along with Guirado in case the U.S threaten an upset.
World Cup organisers on Sunday said they had briefed France and the United States on "contingency options" in case the match was affected by Typhoon Mitag, which is building off the south-west coast of Japan.
Those concerns eased on Monday and organisers said it would definitely go ahead as scheduled after the Japan Meteorological Agency confirmed the Typhoon was "lessening in strength (and) tracking further westward away from Japan's coastline".
Team: 15-Thomas Ramos, 14-Alivereti Raka, 13-Gael Fickou, 12-Sofiane Guitoune, 11-Yoann Huget, 10-Camille Lopez, 9-Maxime Machenaud, 8-Louis Picamoles, 7-Yacouba Camara, 6-Arthur Iturria, 5-Paul Gabrillagues, 4-Bernard Le Roux, 3-Emerick Setiano, 2-Camille Chat, 1-Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16-Guilhem Guirado, 17-Jefferson Poirot, 18-Rabah Slimani, 19-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20-Gregory Alldritt, 21-Baptiste Serin, 22-Romain Ntamack, 23-Maxime Medard
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Tokyo, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
((Nick.Mulvenney@tr.com; +61 2 9321 8190;))