Like a shadow of a doubt. The list of 42 players called to prepare for the Six Nations Tournament, the last step between a perfect 2022 year and the 2023 World Cup, should see new faces join the XV of France due to (too?) many absences.
Defending champions, the Blues of Fabien Galthié are aiming for a second Grand Slam in a row, a first since the 1997-1998 double of the Blues of Jean-Claude Skrela a few years before the integration of Italy.
The Blues winner of the Grand Slam in 2022
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A twenty-seventh coronation would especially allow the XV of France to mark its territory a few months before the World Cup at home (September 8-October 28).
For that, Galthié and his staff will have to deal with many absentees for the start of the competition: in the center, Virimi Vakatawa (Racing 92) had to end his career, Arthur Vincent (Montpellier) and Jonathan Danty (La Rochelle ) are injured, prop Jean-Baptiste Gros (Toulon) has already forfeited, as have hookers Pierre Bourgarit (La Rochelle) and Peato Mauvaka (Toulouse) or second lines Killian Geraci (Lyon) and Florian Verhaeghe (Montpellier). ..
Add uncertainties around the winger of Toulon Gabin Villière, who chains the glitches, of his counterpart of Clermont Damian Penaud (ischios), of the pillar of La Rochelle Uini Atonio (knee), of the third line of Toulouse François Cros (knee) , UBB opener Matthieu Jalibert (ischios), La Rochelle third line Yoann Tanga (pectoral muscle), Lyon scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud (ischios)… and the 2023 Tournament, with its three trips, already has the air of trap competition.
In short, to support executives Antoine Dupont, Gaël Fickou, Grégory Alldritt, Julien Marchand or Romain Ntamack, new faces could therefore appear, the center of Pau Emilien Gailleton (19) in the lead.
The opening half of La Rochelle Antoine Hastoy (25 years old, 2 caps), the winger of Toulouse Mathis Lebel (23 years old, 5 caps), the third line of Montpellier Alexandre Bécognée (26 years old, 1 cap), the pillar of La Rochelle Reda Wardi (27 years old, 2 sel.) or the 3rd line of Pau Jordan Joseph (22 years old) will also have a card to play.
“We are closely following Julien Delbouis (Stade français, editor’s note), Léo Barré (Stade français), Louis Bielle-Biarrey (UBB), Romain Buros (UBB), Ethan Dumortier (Lyon). not too many new faces in sight but real emulation, especially on the second row, with Paul Willemse (Montpellier) who is coming back, Bastien Chalureau (Montpellier) who has passed a milestone, Emmanuel Meafou (Toulouse) who we are watching closely, who is not yet selectable but it will be soon”, moreover recently entrusted Galthié, before quoting Dimitri Delibes (Toulouse), Pierre-Louis Barassi (Toulouse) or Tani Vili (UBB).
Oyonnax pillar Thomas Laclayat (25), Pro D2’s best test scorer, could also be called up, after being called up during the summer tour in Japan and then during the fall tests. Proof of the importance of the 2023 Tournament, the Blues will leave for an internship in Cap Breton (Landes) on Sunday and will not return to Marcoussis before going to Rome.
The XV of France indeed begins the defense of its crown against Italy, on the 5th, before leaving for Dublin the following week. The teammates of Antoine Dupont, untouchable captain, will then receive Scotland (February 26) and Wales (March 18), two matches which frame a trip to Twickenham against England (March 11).
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