Parra and Medard thrive on change at the back

Matt Lewis Profile
by AFP & Matt Lewis

As France prepare for the semi-final match against Wales on Saturday, two of their players are still coming to grips with their new positions in the backline.

But for coach Marc Lièvremont, his decision to move Morgan Parra from scrum half to fly half and Maxime Médard from wing to full back has helped take his team into the last four of Rugby World Cup 2011.

Parra, who plays for Top 14 club Clermont Auvergne, was moved outside Dimitri Yachvili because Lièvremont felt that the incumbent François Trinh-Duc was not playing to the level expected of him. With David Skrela injured, Lièvremont felt he had no choice but to move Parra to No.10.

After the defeat of England in the quarter-finals, France kicking coach, the Argentine Gonzalo Quesada, was quick to support his coach, pointing out that Parra’s knowledge of the scrum-half position made Yachvili’s work easier.

France will also have the benefit of Parra’s kicking skills after Yachvili, while still playing against Wales, ruled himself out of the job when he aggravated a leg injury by continuing with the kicking duties in the defeat of England.

Parra, the lightest and youngest player in the French squad, is the kicker for his Clermont Auvergne club and has been one of the most prolific points scorers at RWC 2011. He came off the bench to score a try in France's opening pool match, against Japan, and kicked for 23 points in the second, against Canada.

Versatile player

It also helped Lièvremont’s case that he could bring Trinh-Duc on at the 54th minute mark in the England match as a replacement for Yachvili with Parra moving to his scrum half berth after he and Yachvili had done their work in the first half, helping to set up two tries to give the French a half-time 16-0 lead.

Médard, who scored France's second try against England, has also seemed at home holding the fort at the back. He has proved himself versatile and the move from his selected position on the wing has proved to be another of Lièvremont’s gambles which has paid off.

The move was both tactical and medical. With Damien Traille not performing to expectation, according to the coaching staff, and with wing Alexis Palisson back from injury, it was logical for the French coach to put the Toulouse player behind the two speedsters in Palisson and the prolific try scorer, Vincent Clerc.

"We know that he is eager to find spaces and that he is more 'limited' when he plays on the wing. It's one of the most talented players who will have more responsibilities as the boss of the back line."