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New boys integrated in France rugby team

France rugby captain Thierry Dusautoir insisted Friday that the influx of new players to the starting XV against Fiji on Saturday will not affect the team’s cohesion.

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Coach Philippe Saint-Andre has come under fire for constantly chopping and changing his side, and once again he has picked three uncapped players — with a fourth on the bench — ahead of the game at the Stade Velodrome.

Yet Dusautoir believes the likes of South Africa-born pair Scott Spedding, who starts at fullback, and Rory Kockott, the replacement scrum-half, as well as Racing-Metro duo Teddy Thomas (wing) and Alexandre Dumoulin (centre) have adapted well to their new surroundings.

“The issue is that the new arrivals express themselves to the maximum of their potential and feel good in the team,” said the Toulouse flanker.

“It’s the work we’ve done throughout the week so that the whole group of players participating in the encounter play without the breaks on and with lots of enthusiasm.

“That was the aim of the first training camps, so that they would acclimatise quickly to our style of play.

“So far I’ve seen nothing negative, the new players have integrated into our squad very quickly but I remain convinced that real integration happens on the pitch.”

Fiji’s coach John McKee claimed earlier Friday that France would play directly and use their forwards to batter away at the Fiji defence, whereas his own team would try to play a more expansive game.

But Dusautoir insists Les Bleus can run the ball themselves when they want to and will not look to play a less imaginative game based around rucking and mauling, although they will try to remain organised.

“We’ll also try to express ourselves in the backs. What’s certain is that the Fijians are renowned in all the leagues in which they play as players who can make a huge difference.

“Individually they’re very physical, very powerful and they run very fast. Maybe physically we don’t have the same strengths as them but collectively we’re maybe more suited to working together.

“We’ll look to use our organisation to beat them. The trap would be to fall into a match based only on disorder, which would suit the Fijians.”

France have been poor under Saint-Andre, winning only 11 out of 29 Tests and just five out of the last 19 since the start of 2013.

Saint-Andre has the worst win percentage of any France coach over the last 30 years.

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