Preview: France v South Africa

France begin their November campaign in Paris on Saturday evening as they welcome a South Africa side out for revenge.

France begin their November campaign in Paris on Saturday evening as they welcome a South Africa side out for revenge.

The Springboks fell just short of a win against England at Twickenham, and now arrive in France bolstered by the return of a number of key players.

Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux and Franco Mostert slot straight into the South African starting line-up, while Vincent Koch, Francois Louw and France-based Cheslin Kolbe are named on the bench.

That makes for a tough challenge for Les Bleus, who will be looking to bounce back after a tough summer tour to New Zealand.

Jacques Brunel is keen to settle on a spine to his French team, and while he is without a couple of injured players, he welcomes back skipper Guilhem Guirado at hooker.

Guirado will captain the side, while Louis Picamoles returns at No.8and fly-half Camille Lopez makes his first appearance for France since the 2017 Six Nations.

Les Bleus finished fourth in the 2018 Championship but came within a whisker of beating both Ireland and Wales, which would have given their campaign a very different feel.

For the Autumn Internationals Brunel has also chosen to make the most of the versatility in his squad, handing Arthur Iturria and Damian Penaud their first starts in new positions. The former switches to the back row, while the latter starts on the wing having played there for club side Clermont this season.

The game marks an opportunity for France to avenge a one-point loss to the same opponents last season, ahead of clashes with Argentina and Fiji to finish their November schedule.

And with a Friday night clash against Wales in Paris open the 2019 Six Nations, this will be a good test of where Brunel’s side stand after 11 months in charge of the team.

France v South Africa, Stade de France, Paris, Saturday 10 November, 8.05pm GMT

Jacques Brunel (France head coach): “We want to get a spine of the team to see if that is the core that will take us through to the World Cup. We need to get back to winning ways to reinforce our project. We have stuck with Guilhem (Guirado) as our captain. It’s a show of faith.

“There are several reasons we have not been able to find stability through the team, particularly injuries.”

Rassie Erasmus (South Africa director of rugby): “The French are very physical and skilful, and we will have to be good on defence and also be disciplined.

“The conditions here in the northern hemisphere demand a different approach and while we created a lot of opportunities last week we have to better with our execution.”

Key Battle: Lineout

There will have been plenty of focus on the lineout from both sides this week with South Africa’s set-piece malfunctioning at crucial moments last week at Twickenham, while France struggled in that area in New Zealand in June.

For the Springboks, the return of Franco Mostert should help in that regard. The former Lions lock is one of the top lineout forwards in South Africa.

Meanwhile Jacques Brunel and lineout coach Julien Bonnaire have tweaked their side with Arthur Iturria, more commonly used in the second row, shifting to blindside. The Clermont forward is second in the Top 14 in both lineouts won and steals, and Les Bleus will hope he can have a similar impact at international level.

Stat Watch:

– The teams have met four times previously at the Stade de France with two wins apiece. South Africa’s first game in the stadium came at the 1999 World Cup when Jannie de Beer hit a world-record five drop goals

– The two sides met last November in Paris when South Africa edged to victory 18-17, having also swept the three-Test series played in June

– Baptiste Serin and Camille Lopez will be reunited in the half-backs, having previously played the entirety of the 2017 Six Nations together

– South Africa welcome back World Rugby Player of the Year nominee Faf de Klerk after he missed the defeat at Twickenham last weekend

France: 15. Maxime Médard, 14. Teddy Thomas, 13. Mathieu Bastareaud, 12. Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11. Damian Penaud, 10. Camille Lopez, 9. Baptiste Serin; 1. Jefferson Poirot, 2. Guilhem Guirado (captain), 3. Cedate Gomes Sa, 4. Sébastien Vahaamahina, 5. Yoann Maestri, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 7. Arthur Iturria, 8. Louis Picamoles Replacements: 16. Camille Chat, 17. Dany Priso, 18. Rabah Slimani, 19. Paul Gabrillagues, 20. Mathieu Babillot, 21. Antoine Dupont, 22. Anthony Belleau, 23. Gaël Fickou

South Africa: 15. Willie le Roux, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10. Handré Pollard, 9. Faf de Klerk, 1. Steven Kitshoff, 2. Malcolm Marx, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 5. Franco Mostert, 6. Siya Kolisi (captain), 7. Duane Vermeulen, 8. Warren Whiteley Replacements: 16. Bongi Mbonambi, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. RG Snyman, 20. Francois Louw, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Elton Jantjies, 23. Cheslin Kolbe