France coach Phillipe Saint-Andre fully expects ageing flyhalf Frederic Michalak to grab his shot at redemption against the Wallabies.
Mercurial French flyhalf Frederic Michalak is starting his first Test in a year, hasn’t played rugby in a month and is jet-lagged from a rushed trip to Brisbane.
But Les Bleus coach Phillipe Saint-Andre fully expects the 31-year-old to grab his shot at redemption with both hands against the Wallabies on Saturday night.
It’s a tough ask with Michalak having just three days to prepare with his teammates after flying in to Australia on Tuesday morning.
Highlighting the nuances of French rugby, the 2003 World Cup star didn’t play a minute in Toulon’s finals charge to the Top 14 title as he was overlooked for Jonny Wilkinson.
Saint-Andre had little choice but to throw Michalak into the first Test at Suncorp Stadium as his first-choice playmaker, Remi Tales, played 70 minutes for Castres in the Top 14 decider.
“(Michalak) just carried the water in the final so he’s quite fresh to be with us,” the coach said.
“He’s very excited to play. He’s happy to start with the No.10 on his back and he wants to show he’s a good footballer.”
Opposing Australia’s rookie flyhalf Bernard Foley, Michalak is under pressure to play a vital role in creating attacking opportunities for the dangerous centre pairing of Wesley Fofana and Gael Fickou.
The last time the 70-Test veteran started at No.10 for France they were whitewashed 30-0 by the All Blacks in Christchurch last June and it appeared his international career was ending.
He came off the bench for two Tests in France’s Six Nations campaign in March but Saint-Andre selected him for the three-Test tour on the back of his form for Toulon, ahead of Wilkinson, in April.
“He played three league games in a row at flyhalf and did very well,” Saint-Andre said. “His kicking was at 90 per cent.
“We think he’s still a good footballer and he showed it with Toulon when he got the opportunity.”
Interestingly, Saint-Andre pointed to Michalak’s two solid-rather-than-spectacular seasons with the South African-based Sharks in dismissing concerns about jet-lag.
“He is used to jet-lag because he was in Super 15 so he won’t have the problem with this,” he said. “His body and his mind is more adaptable than other (French) players.”