Julien Dupuy and Lionel Beauxis will pair up for France for the first time since 2009 after coach Philippe Saint-Andre named his team Wednesday to face England in the Six Nations.
Scrum-half Dupuy and fly-half Beauxis replace Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc, the most used half-back pairing from 2008 to 2011 under former coach Marc Lievremont, in the key positions for Sunday's match at the Stade de France.
This weekend's clash will be crucial to France's bid, but Saint-Andre believes Dupuy and Beauxis could be key.
"They know each other well because they've played together as half backs at Stade Francais," Saint-Andre told reporters here Wednesday.
"It's a strategic choice on my part. England are the team that occupy the field of play the most, especially away from home.
"It's also because during our first three games we struggled to really get going, and we had trouble getting out of our own half during the first 20 minutes."
Dupuy and Beauxis, who played at Stade Francais from 2009 to 2011, will be the third half-back pairing used by Saint-Andre in four matches.
Trinh-Duc had previously been paired with scrum half Dimitry Yachvili, who left the squad due to injury on February 9 and has not been recalled despite making an impressive return to competition with Biarritz in the Top 14.
Dupuy, 28 and with seven previous caps, has not played for France since a 39-12 defeat to New Zealand in November 2009. A 23-week ban for eye gouging while playing for Stade in the European Cup then stalled his return to the national set-up.
The 26-year-old Beauxis last played for France in 2009 when they suffered a 27-6 defeat in Australia. He is set to earn his 19th cap.
Despite their previous international experience, it will be the first time Dupuy and Beauxis, known for his long kicking abilities, start together for France.
Saint-Andre meanwhile has kept faith with his two centres from Clermont, Wesley Fofana and Aurelien Rougerie, his entire pack and the trio of backs in Clement Poitrenaud, Vincent Clerc and Julien Malzieu.
Nicknamed 'Le Crunch' in the media, it will be the 95th meeting between the historical rivals, a fixture Saint-Andre -- who will take charge of his first such match -- believes surpasses all notion of sport.
"A France v England match isn't just about rugby. A lot of people might only watch one rugby match a year, and that match will be France v England," he said.
"It's all about fight, discipline and commitment throughout 80 minutes and then at the end we shake hands like gentlemen.
"The 'Crunch' has a very special flavour, and it's even more special when you win it so we'll be doing everything we can to make sure we finish with smiles on our faces and shake hands with a 'good game', and hopefully a win, at the end."
After Sunday's match France's Six Nations campaign concludes on March 17 in Cardiff against Wales, the only team still with a chance of achieving the Grand Slam.
France team (15-1)
Clement Poitrenaud; Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu; Lionel Beauxis, Julien Dupuy; Julien Bonnaire, Imanol Harinordoquy, Thierry Dusautoir (capt); Yohann Maestri, Pascal Pape; Nicolas Mas, Dmitry Szarzewski, Jean-Baptiste Poux
Source: AFP Global Edition