Preview: France v Fiji

France’s autumn campaign ends with hostilities renewed with Fiji, Les Bleus taking on the Pacific Islanders for the first time in four years.

France’s autumn campaign ends with hostilities renewed with Fiji, Les Bleus taking on the Pacific Islanders for the first time in four years.

The tenth meeting between these two nations takes place in Paris on Saturday, with Fiji running out at the Stade de France for the first time in their history.

As they look to build on their nine straight victories against their weekend opponents, France attempt to fully banish the spectre of their agonising defeat to South Africa earlier this month, having humbled Argentina 28-13 last time out.

Benjamin Fall and Rabah Slimani are drafted in, replacing the injured Maxime Médard and Cedate Gomes Sa respectively, while exciting young prop Demba Bamba is named on the bench and could make his Test debut.

Hooker Julien Marchand could also be blooded as a replacement while Fiji’s starting XV is unchanged from the team that beat Uruguay 68-7 in their last outing, the visitors set to arrive at the Stade de France confident of breaking their duck.

What they said:

France head coach Jacques Brunel: “Our objective will be to allow them the least amount of space possible because they know how to use it.

“We’ll try to organise the play, to keep possession and keep the ball in their half as much as possible.”

Fiji head coach John McKee said: “We have talked about it. It’s an opportunity to create history for the boys.

“They (Fiji’s players) know Fiji have never beaten France. They feel like they have a good opportunity this time.

“We will be looking to negate their maul. If that happens, then it’s then game on for us.”

Key battle: Arthur Iturria v Peceli Yato

Two Clermont teammates go head-to-head in an intriguing back row battle, Arthur Iturria and Peceli Yato having been handed their nations’ respective No.7 shirts.

Both part of the Clermont side that won the Top 14 and reached the European Rugby Champions Cup final in 2017, Iturria and Yato are imposing, combative presences that will be looking to gobble up opponents all evening.

More commonly used as a second row, Iturria has shifted into the back row this to great effect, and starts his third straight match for Les Bleus in that position.

Against Yato, he will face one of the more dynamic carrying threats in Europe, and with the two knowing each other so well, it should provide an interesting contrast in styles.

Key stats

France: 15. Benjamin Fall, 14. Teddy Thomas, 13. Gaël Fickou, 12. Mathieu Bastareaud, 11. Yoann Huget, 10. Camille Lopez, 9. Baptiste Serin, 1. Jefferson Poirot, 2. Guilhem Guirado (capt), 3. Rabah Slimani, 4. Sébastien Vahaamahina, 5. Yoann Maestri, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 7. Arthur Iturria, 8. Louis Picamoles

Replacements: 16. Julien Marchand, 17. Dany Priso, 18. Demba Bamba, 19. Félix Lambey, 20. Kélian Galletier, 21. Antoine Dupont, 22. Anthony Belleau, 23. Geoffrey Doumayrou

Fiji: 15. Metuisela Talebula, 14. Josua Tuisova, 13. Semi Radradra, 12. Jale Vatubua, 11. Vereniki Goneva, 10. Ben Volavola, 9. Frank Lomani, 8. Viliame Mata, 7. Peceli Yato, 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu (capt), 5. Leone Nakarawa, 4. Tevita Cavubati, 3. Manasa Saulo, 2. Sam Matavesi, 1. Campese Maafu

Replacements: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Kalivati Tawake, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Henry Seniloli, 22 Alivereti Veitokani, 23 Eroni Sau