Backline tyros Damian Penaud and Antoine Dupont have shrugged off injuries to make the France team named by coach Jacques Brunel for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Wales on Sunday.
Electric winger Penaud and livewire scrum-half Dupont will take their place in a starting XV that will be captained by hooker Guilhem Guirado.
“If he hadn’t recovered, we wouldn’t play him,” Brunel said of Penaud.
“The same goes for Antoine Dupont. We’ve protected them a bit, looked after them and they are 100% fit today.”
Guirado will make his first start in three matches having played second fiddle to Camille Chat in France’s last two pool matches – the 33-9 romp against the United States and the 23-21 close shave against Tonga.
The final match of the pool, against England, was canceled because of the deadly Typhoon Hagibis which swept into eastern Japan.
That meant that coach Brunel had not been able to pick the team that had opened their campaign with a 23-21 victory against Argentina.
For Wales, Brunel made one change from that team that beat Los Pumas, drafting in South African-born Bernard Le Roux in place of Arthur Iturria in the second row.
He missed France’s three warm-up matches because of a ban but showed up well against the US.
“We know how active he is, we’ve seen that since the start of the tournament,” Brunel said, putting ultra-consistent Wales in the top three teams in the world.
“We love that back-row/second-row player profile. He’s very active around the park and loves contact.”
Iturria, who also fits that profile but is not quite the physical wrecking ball that Le Roux can be on his day, misses out on the match-day 23, Brunel instead named lock Paul Gabrillagues and number eight Louis Picamoles among the replacements.
Maxime Medard will start at fullback alongside wingers Penaud and Yoann Huget, while Fiji-born Virimi Vakatawa and Gael Fickou are in midfield.
Dupont will partner Romain Ntamack at half-back, with Baptiste Serin and Camille Lopez on the bench.
Guirado packs down between props Rabah Slimani and Jefferson Poirot, while Le Roux is joined in the boiler house by Sebastien Vahaamahina.
Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon and Wenceslas Lauret form a combative back-row that will have its work cut out against Six Nations champions Wales.
“I can’t say where we’ll end up,” Brunel said.
“But inside, I really feel something very positive from these four months of adventure during which different generations of players have come together.
“We can but hope to capitalize on that feeling and use that energy… which can offer up something very, very interesting,” he added.
Flanker Ollivon added that France’s World Cup pedigree, having played three finals and reached the semi-finals on six occasions, was not something on which the players dwelled.
“When you come into a competition, you don’t really think back to what’s already past,” he said.
“But France has a fantastic history in the World Cup, we know that and obviously want to stay at that level of performance.”