BRISBANE - France's hopes of ending a 24 year Australian drought have suffered a huge blow with inspirational captain Thierry Dusautoir ruled out of the first rugby Test against the Wallabies.
Les Bleus coach Phillipe Saint-Andre pulled a major surprise on Wednesday night by preferring to let Dusautoir overcome an arm problem instead of risking him on Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.
The flanker is only two matches back from arm surgery after a torn biceps kept him sidelined for four months and Saint-Andre opted to rest him after he pulled up sore from training on the weekend.
Although he finished the season with Toulouse, Dusautoir had been wary about travelling to Australia but the coach had been keen to have his skipper play as much as possible with the World Cup 15 months away.
"He is not 100 per cent yet so we prefer to give him one week off to be ready for the second Test," said Saint-Andre.
Veteran prop Nicolas Mas will now captain the French while South African-born Bernard Le Roux replaces Dusautoir in the back-row.
The loss of the 2011 IRB player of the year means Les Bleus will be without half a dozen of their best players as they search for their first win on Australian soil since 1990.
Saint-Andre has rested four players involved in the weekend's Top 14 final between Toulon and Castres, while also putting Remi Lamerat and Brice Dulin on the bench.
But the coach has selected Frederic Michalak to start at No.10 despite the veteran flyhalf only flying into Brisbane on Tuesday morning.
Michalak, 31, was left out of Toulon's star-studded 23-man side for the Top 14 decider but remained in France to watch Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Giteau lead their team to the championship.
With first-choice five-eighth Remi Tales playing for Castres, he was also mulling over whether to play halfback Morgan Parra at No.10.
But he was confident Michalak would overcome jet lag and four weeks without a game.
"When we picked the squad (last month) he had played three games consecutively at flyhalf and three times in the French League in front of Jonny Wilkinson," Saint-Andre said. "He did very well and his kicking was 90 percent.
Uncapped winger Felix Le Bourhis was the other selection shock, picked to make his debut ahead of Maxime Medard.
France: Hugo Bonneval, Yohann Huget, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Felix Le Bourhis, Frederic Michalak, Maxime Machenaud; Damien Chouly, Bernard Le Roux, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Nicolas Mas, Guilhelm Guirado, Thomas Domingo. Res: Christopher Tolofua, Vincent Debaty, Rabah Slimani, Alexandre Flanquart, Antoine Burban, Morgan Parra, Remi Lamerat, Brice Dulin.