Rugby Union: SIX NATIONS SPECIAL: Laporte to Give Jean a Baptism

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Byline: ALEX SPINK

JEAN-BAPTISTE Elissalde has been named as France's new first-choice scrum-half, in Bernard Laporte's team to face Ireland in this weekend's RBS 6 Nations opener.

Elissalde has claimed the number nine berth following the retirement of Fabien Galthie in a line-up which features two debutants in William Servat and Pascal Pape.

Servat takes the hooker's role from Raphael Ibanez who, like Galthie, quit after the World Cup. And Pape gets the call on Saturday because of problems in the second row, with Jerome Thion ruled out of the tournament with injury problems.

Laporte said: "No one has really staked a claim for the scrum-half role after Fabien Galthie.

"Jean-Baptiste now has his chance at international level, as Dmitri Yachvili has had before."

The French coach will be hoping talented out-half Frederic Michalak can continue in the rich vein of form he showed in Le Blues' impressive World Cup campaign.

The 21-year-old Toulouse-born player was one of France's biggest success stories and his goalkicking ability will present a major headache to Eddie O'Sullivan.

And Although he admits that France's defeat to England in the semi-finals of the World Cup was a huge disappointment, Michalak is already thinking about bouncing back. …