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Bastareaud set to miss out

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Bastareaud set to miss out with France's shock centre selection

France vice-captain Mathieu Bastareaud is set to be left out of Jacques Brunel’s matchday 23 for their Six Nations opener against Wales on Friday night, according to French publication Rugbyrama.

In a shock selection, Brunel will reportedly make the decision to start 19-year-old young gun Romain Ntamack, son of French international Émile Ntamack, in combination with the experienced Wesley Fofana.

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France are reportedly set to start 19-year-old young gun @ntamackromain in favour of vice captain Mathieu Bastareaud against Wales. ? @sixnationsrugby @ffrugby #younggun #ntamack #france #sixnations #frenchrugby #?? #sacrebleu #meohmy #sixnationsrugby #rugby #rugby? #stadedefrance #stadetoulousain #toulouse

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The decision to drop Bastareaud out of the 23-man playing squad altogether comes as a surprise, with the Toulon centre one of Brunel’s defensive lynchpins. He led the competition in turnovers won in 2018 with seven, finishing equal first with Scotland’s John Barclay and has started eight of the last 11 games for Les Blues.

Bastareaud, who has 50 caps for France, was informed directly by Brunel on Monday he will remain in the stands on Friday night. It is understood his lack of versatility has played a part in the decision to be left off the bench.

Assistant coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde is reportedly trying to find more speed and greater circulation of the ball for a France side looking to become more mobile ahead of the World Cup.

The elevation of sensation Romain Ntamack into the starting side is the proposed solution, with the Toulouse midfielder having been a standout performer in the Top 14 for the first half of the 2018-19 season.

Ntamack, a world under-20 champion last year, is an avid ball player with shifty footwork and vision. His passing game will enable France to open up the wider channels, and his ability to fix defenders will create space for his outside partners. His kicking game will provide a right foot option in contrast with that of Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez.

He would become the second player from the world champion under-20 side behind Demba Bumba to debut for France, who played against Fiji last November.

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Bastareaud set to miss out with France's shock centre selection