France unveiled a surprise lineup for the first Test against Australia on Saturday with veteran captain Thierry Dusautoir given more time to recover full fitness.
Coach Philippe Saint-Andre named Montpellier’s 34-year-old prop Nicolas Mas captain for the first time.
“Thierry is still not 100 percent after his biceps injury,” in January, Saint-Andre said Wednesday.
“We preferred to give him another week to fully recover because we need players at 100 percent.”
Dusautoir had nonetheless returned to top level competition with Toulouse in early May to play the last two games of the season.
Rated among the best flankers in the game, he won the 2011 player of the year award for an inspirational display in Les Bleus’ 8-7 World Cup final loss to the All Blacks.
In another surprise, the powerful Louis Picamoles was also left out and Damien Chouly given the number eight jersey.
Clermont’s Chouly will line up in an experimental back row with Bernard Le Roux and Fulgence Ouedraogo.
As expected Toulon’s Frederic Michalak returns at fly-half for the first time since France toured Australia a year ago.
“We don’t have any pressure at all, we just have a go and enjoy the moment Saturday,” Saint-Andre said.
France have not won in Australia for 24 years and Saint-Andre has said victory over the third-ranked Wallabies would be psychologically important for them 15 months before the World Cup.
France (15-1) – Hugo Bonneval, Yoann Huget, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Felix Le Bourhis, Frederic Michalak, Maxime Machenaud, Bernard Le Roux, Damien Chouly, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Nicolas Mas (capt), Guilhem Guirado, Thomas Domingo
Christopher Tolofua, Vincent Debaty, Rabah Slimani, Alexandre Flanquart, Antoine Burban, Morgan Parra, Remi Lamerat, Brice Dulin