French coach Jacques Brunel looks set to make five changes to the team that lost heavily to New Zealand last weekend, including bringing in three Top14 finalists who have just joined the team in New Zealand.
French media close to the squad have tipped Montpelier players Kelian Galletier (blindside flanker) and Ben Fall (wing), and Mathieu Babillot, captain of the competition-winning team Castres Olympique, to start in Wellington on Saturday.
Toulouse centre Gael Fickou is expected to replace wing Remy Grosso who suffered two fractures to his skull and has been given the all-clear by an Auckland ophthalmologist to take a flight home to France today. The fifth player likely to be called into the French side this weekend is classy centre Wesley Fofana, who missed the last test due to knee soreness.
"We will look at the state of physical and mental freshness of each player before deciding," Brunel said yesterday.
On Monday, the team continued training in heavy rain at QBE Stadium – with several French rugby heavyweights in attendance. Former French great Phillipe Sella watched from the stands, while the two Racing 92 coaches Laurent Labit and Lauren Travers joined French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte on the sidelines.
Laporte, on a flying visit to New Zealand before returning to France for the final of the U20s World Championship delivered a message to the French players, saying the team was in the land of the world's best and that what the French team did for the first 52 minutes on Saturday it had to sustain for 80 minutes.
"What is needed is to improve, that is to say that for 50 minutes we showed that we can compete, but we must go even further and try to compete even more," he said.
The French, who would have been buoyed by the semi-final win of their U20 side over New Zealand in Perpigan this morning, leave Auckland for Wellington later tomorrow. The official team will be announced in the morning.
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