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Eighteen months after his last cap, France turn to Fijian Virimi Vakatawa

By Liam Heagney
Virimi Vakatawa in action during his last France appearance in February 2018 (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

Virimi Vakatawa has been called into the France World Cup squad to replace the injured Geoffrey Doumayrou, the midfielder who was ruled out last Thursday after picking up an Achilles tendon injury in training. 

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The 27-year-old Fijian-born winger has been out of favour with Jacques Brunel for a considerable length of time, earning the last of his 17 Test caps in the February 2018 Six Nations win over Scotland in Edinburgh. 

However, that considerable gap without an appearance is now set to be bridged following his call-up to the RWC squad replace Doumayrou, who had started at centre on eight occasions and come off the bench twice more in France’s last 14 matches prior to last weekend’s 32-3 warm-up rout of Scotland.

Vakatawa, who had been busy preparing for the new Top 14 season with Racing 92, came through a series of medical checks with the French backroom staff and will link up with Brunel’s squad on Wednesday ahead of their rematch against the Scots at Murrayfield next Saturday. 

Vakatawa’s inclusion for the finals further highlights how Fijian-born players are set to have a part to play at the World Cup in Japan with other nations. 

Clermont’s Aliverti Raka made a try-scoring debut just last Saturday for France in Nice, while other fellow Test level newcomers are Crusaders’ Sevu Reece, who started for the All Blacks in last Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup rematch, and the Rebels’ Isi Naisarani, who played with Australia. 

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In nominating winger Vakatawa as midfielder Doumayrou’s replacement, Brunel ignored the recall hopes of Mathieu Bastareaud, the biggest big-name casualty when the 31-strong French squad for the finals in Japan was originally selected in June.    

Bastareaud has instead linked up with Lyon on a short-term deal for the duration of the World Cup before packing his packs for the 2020 MLR season with Rugby United New York.    

WATCH: Mathieu Bastareaud’s post-MLR career may already be decided

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