Halfbacks who can switch to five-eighths and vice-versa have become an increasingly valuable commodity in test rugby.

Matt Giteau filled both roles for the Wallabies, Piri Weepu has been used by the All Blacks in both jobs in the same test and Taniela Moa started in both positions for Tonga in this World Cup.

Now France has joined the trend, with halfback Morgan Parra shifting out a place for Saturday's critical Rugby World Cup test against the All Blacks at Eden Park.

All Parra's 31 test starts have been at halfback, although he shifted to five-eighths for two short stints against Japan and Canada in this tournament. This week, though, he begins with the No 10 on his jersey.


The rationale? Coach Marc Lievremont is exasperated with the lack of form of his regular five-eighths Francois Trinh-Duc and hopes his dumping will shake him from that lethargy.

"I'm expecting him to react. I'm disappointed with his two performances and I've told him that," Lievremont said.

"He has trouble accepting when he's underperformed, which is a necessary thing to be a champion.

"I'm waiting for Francois to show me he is a competitor, that he's better than he's shown in the last two games. It's also a kind of test for him."

Trinh-Duc has been the automatic choice at five-eighths for France for the past three years and starred during the last Six Nations.

However, Lievremont wondered whether his game had suffered recently because he lacked competition.

That sort of public affront is nothing new for the French or Trinh-Duc, who acknowledged his coach's assessment.

"I accept this decision," said Trinh-Duc. "I am the only one to blame for my performances."


Lievremont has made a number of changes to the side who beat Canada 46-19 in their latest match.

Captain Thierry Dusautoir returns to the flank, hooker Dimitri Szarzewski comes in for his first game, Yachvili returns as the goalkicking halfback, Maxime Medard slots in on the left wing with Aurelien Rougerie moving to centre.

Louis Picamoles keeps his place at No 8 after a storming game against Canada and has the chance to cement that role ahead of Raphael Lakafia or Imanol Harinorduquy.

"Picamoles has been rewarded for his last match," Lievremont said.

"I've always reproached him for his inconsistency, now he has the chance to show he can play two good matches at the highest level. It's up to him to see if he can take it."

Parra's elevation is likely to have him facing Daniel Carter, whose back strain is improving, according to reports from Christchurch, where the team has been based for four days, and should have him in the side when it is announced tomorrow.

Three years ago Parra played first five-eighths for his Bourgoin club but only rarely, and seldom since.

His positional shift has occurred because David Skrela, who was supposed to be the backup five-eighths, has returned home injured.

"I can't rely on my performances against Canada and Japan. It will be something quite different against the All Blacks, that will be another level altogether," Parra said.

Six French players have started at halfback and five-eighths in tests but only three since World War II. Freddie Michalak, who played for the Sharks in the Super 15 this season, started his test career at halfback before switching to five-eighths.

Parra kicked five penalties against Canada at the weekend but coach Lievremont said Yachvili would take over those duties to allow the new five-eighths to concentrate on his new role.

Lievremont does not expect any All Black surprises, though he wondered whether Conrad Smith might have a new centre partner for this test.

France beat the All Blacks in the quarter-finals at the last World Cup and were the last test side to beat them at Eden Park, in 1994.

Eden Park, 8.30pm Saturday

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

15. Damien Traille

14. Vincent Clerc

13. Aurelien Rougerie

12. Maxime Mermoz

11. Maxime Medard

10. Morgan Parra

9. Dimitri Yachvili

8. Louis Picamoles

7. Julien Bonnaire

6. T. Dusautoir (c)

5. Lionel Nallet

4. Pascal Pape

3. Luc Ducalcon

2. Dimitri Szarzewski

1. JB Poux

W. Servat, F. Barcella, J. Pierre, I. Harinordoquy, F.Trinh-Duc, F. Estebanez, C. Heymans