Wallabies gear up for French onslaught
French players Frederic Michalak, centre, Pascal Pape, right, and Damien Chouly during a training session at the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis, south of Paris. Pic: AP Photo

The Wallabies' quest to go through a full European tour undefeated for the first time since 1996 begins at Stade de France on Saturday night when they meet a team desperate to stop the rot at home against Australia.

The tourists are also chasing a record-equalling sixth straight victory over France in Paris with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans warning his side to brace for an early French onslaught.

"They've got a big pack and they'll want to use them," Deans said.

"Whenever you play the French, you've got to earn respect first and foremost.

"It will mean these (Wallabies) blokes rolling their sleeves up and earning any right that we get to play because there will be no short cuts."

The likes of Australian lock Kane Douglas and Wycliff Palu are sure to have some spirited exchanges with firebrands like French captain Pascal Pape, who stated during the week this will be a game retiring Wallabies' skipper Nathan Sharpe will soon want to forget.

Then there's the battle of the frontrowers with France sure to attack the Australian scrum which is much-maligned when ever the Wallabies tour Europe.

Forecast wet conditions could mean plenty of scrums but Deans has backed his combination of loosehead Benn Robinson, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and tighthead Sekope Kepu to get the job done.

Loosehead Prop Yannick Forestier will make his debut, packing down with hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and world class tighthead Nicolas Mas.

Deans said the recent performance from Australia's scrum in the 18-18 draw against the All Blacks in Brisbane last month spoke volumes about their class.

"There's a greater respect now for our scrum ... We've stood up against the best and had good moments against the best," he said.

The prize for the winning pack on the night will be laying a platform for their backs to show what they've got.

Both No.10s, Australia's Kurtley Beale and French veteran Frederic Michalak, are brilliant on their day and have plenty of trick shots they can throw at opposition defences.

In the midfield, Australia's no-nonsense Pat McCabe and Ben Tapuai clash with powerful duo Florian Fritz and Maxime Mermozthe, the same combination that helped rip Argentina apart in their last start 49-10 win away from home in June.

The French pair have kept classy centre Wesley Fofana on the wing for a second time while Vincent Clerc is on the other flank.

Clerc's pace makes him a dangerman for the Australians and a target for a crossfield kick from Michalak, a play the Wallabies will surely be on guard for.

Beale will be keen to send the ball wide at every opportunity with winger Adam Ashley-Cooper admitting during the week the backline is focused on having a crack in attack on this four-match tour which includes Tests with England, Italy and Wales.

Coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who took over from Marc Lievremont following Les Bleus' Rugby World Cup final loss to the All Blacks, is playing the underdog.

"We have just nine days (to prepare) ... We know it will be tough but we know with rugby it's a contact sport and spirit is very important, commitment is very important and we will need a huge commitment on Saturday against Australia," he said.

Meanwhile Stephen Moore, who starts on the bench, will eclipse Jeremy Paul to become Australia's most capped hooker 73 Test appearances.

The West Australian

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