Beware the petit general


James Mortimer     22 Sep 2011     Getty

Parra played at ten briefly against Japan and Canada (20 and 15 minutes respectively), and his selection could turn out to be a coaching masterstroke.

France are gifted with two outstanding scrumhalves in Parra and Dimitri Yachvili, and with both players talented kickers, snappy distributors and possessing good all round games – the two could flourish running Les Bleus against the All Blacks.

Elder scrumhalf Yachvili, nine years older than 22-year-old Parra, went on further to suggest that the two may interchange.

"I am the 9 he is the 10, but we can swap," Yachvili said.

"We can play nine and 10 during the game, so we stop asking questions and do it by instinct.”

One thing is for sure, the French forwards will not be ecstatic with the selection, with the two well-known at their clubs (Yachvili plays for Biarritz) as aggressive and forceful when it comes to giving their packs instructions.

Indeed Parra has the moniker ‘la petite general’ a title he cemented when playing key roles in guiding France to the 2010 Six Nations Grand Slam, while he was instrumental in Clermont breaking their famous drought – the club reached and lost ten French finals, including in 2007, 2008 and 2009, but didn’t win their maiden crown until last season.

While Parra has started all of his 31 tests at scrumhalf, he has featured there at club level for Bourgoin, and his versatility will allow him to challenge Francois Trinh-Duc to be the team’s starting first five.

Parra and Trinh-Duc were the French axis during their triumphant Six Nations campaign last year, but the Montpellier playmaker has no real competition for his place – and Lievremont said his dropping to the bench was a demotion.

“I’m expecting him to react. I’m disappointed with his two performances and I’ve told him that,” he said.

“He has trouble accepting when he’s underperformed, which is a necessary thing to be a champion.”

“There will be competition for places, perhaps there hasn’t been enough of that for Francois.”

Fullback Damien Traille has played at ten, but been left at fullback for the All Blacks, while Toulouse utility back Jean-Marc Doussain has experience at first five-eighth, but only joined up with the team this week.

“Francois Trinh-Duc is paying the price a bit for the last two games, and Morgan has done very well when he’s played,” Lievremont finished.

Parra himself said he was looking forward to the occasion, especially considering he would likely be facing up against All Blacks maestro Dan Carter.

"This is one of the biggest, It's a big challenge,' Parra said.

"(Carter is) the best in the world. I will try and match him, try and stand up to him. I will give it my best, and try and do something good.

“I have nothing to lose, I know that. I won't ask myself too many questions and try to enjoy it.'

Four players, in captain Thierry Dusautoir, Julien Bonnaire, Vincent Clerc and Traille, will back up after starting in the French win over the All Blacks four years ago in Cardiff.

Outside of the interest in their new halves pairing, the other key contest will be at the ruck, with Dusautoir and Bonnaire colossuses during Les Bleus 20-18 victory in 2007.

While the French captain has been quiet so far this World Cup, Bonnaire and Louis Picamoles have been in outstanding form.

The tight five looks strong, and while William Servat and Fabien Barcella are considered normal first choice starters, both have struggled with injuries this year and will be eased into the match as heavy artillery off the bench.