Trevor Clevenot made the most of his opportunity in the French starting line-up
Sydney, Australia, June 18, 2016 - France underlined their enormous depth by playing a new starting line-up and still beating Australia 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-21) in Sydney on Saturday night.
Playing on the same court where Australia had pulled off a stunning 5-set win in 2014 to progress to Group One, the new-look French team blasted the Australians off the court.
Australia also took the opportunity to give younger players valuable court time, but could not match it with their European opponents.
The side French coach Laurent Tillie sent onto the court was vastly different from 24 hours earlier, as the bench set about proving they deserve a place in the regular starting line-up and, maybe, a ticket to Rio.
Australia were without Tom Edgar and Nehemiah Mote, who injured his knee 24 hours earlier, but the home team had no answer to the force of the French.
Thibault Rossard was being particularly damaging, his rocket serve blowing the Australians off the court, and Pierre Pujol, who blocked and spiked his way around the Australian defence, was also difficult to read.
The one bright light for Australia was the form of former captain, Aidan Zingel, who was strong on the net, but the volleyroos had few answers for the power of the French.
The second set was much the same, Trevor Clevenot and Rossard continuing to be the dominant players on the court as France continued to use force to pummel the Australians.
Setter Harry Peacock and Zingel combined to give Australia some bright moments, but the set belonged to France, as their fringe players continued to press the case for promotion.
Rossard was continuing to torment the Australians in the third set, and Frank Lafitte (four blocks) and Horacio D’almeida (three blocks) were shutting down the home team’s attacks.
But to the credit of the Australians they fought back.
Lincoln Williams, who has only recently returned to the Australian team, replaced Paul Carroll and made the most of his opportunities, while younger players Jordan Richards and Samuel Walker had good moments.
With Zingel marshalling his young team, the Australians fought back to get within a point of France, but it was Rossard and Clevenot who were proving the difference.
Clevenot pulled off successive blocks, and despite a late rally from Richards and Williams, France had done enough to lock away the win.