France are set to rest captain Mathieu Bastareaud from the dead rubber third test against the All Blacks in Dunedin.
French rugby media have reported that halfback Morgan Parra will take over as skipper for Saturday night’s match with Bastareaud not expected to be part of the match day squad.
Clermont teammates Wesley Fofana and Rémi Lamerat will be paired in midfield with Geoffrey Doumayrou, who tweaked an ankle in the second test defeat in Wellington also dropping out.
France’s coaching staff has had the Bastareaud move in mind for a while, L’Equipe sports newspaper reported.
Midi Olympique, France’s specialist rugby publication, said the logic was three-fold.
Bastareaud, 29, has played 30 games for Toulon and France this season, including 27 starts and appeared “physically blunted”.
It also claimed the hybrid pitch at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium would lead to a faster brand of rugby.
The 120kg Bastareaud , who led by example in Wellington with some bruising defence, is more noted for his power game.
France coach Jacques Brunel also had a desire to pair the Clermont clubmates.
Fofana, 30, played the last of his 44 tests against the All Blacks in Paris in November 2016.
He was ruled out of the first two All Black tests due to a thigh injury.
Lamerat was a first-choice midfielder at the start of the Six Nations when Brunel took over as head coach. But he was one of eight players dropped after an infamous night out in Edinburgh following a loss to Scotland at Murrayfield.
Lamerat is now expected to be restored to the starting lineup alongside fellow Edinburgh miscreants Teddy Thomas and Anthony Belleau.
The 28-year-old made his test debut in 2014 and has 14 caps.
Parra’s promotion to the captaincy for the first time in his 68-test career crowns a successful return for the Clermont halfback.
Before this tour, the 29-year-old, who debuted for France in 2008, had been in the test wilderness since the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal defeat to the All Blacks in 2015.
The extra responsibility should not faze Parra, a vocal backline director dubbed ‘Le Petit General’ (the Little General) in France.
Parra will be the third captain of Brunel’s coaching tenure after Toulon twosome Guilherm Guirado (rested for the New Zealand tour) and Bastareaud.
Midfield apart, France are expected to field the same team that started in Wellington.