The new era of French rugby has begun under Fabien Galthié after he named a young and exciting team to face England in the Six Nations on Sunday at the Stade de France.
It is a squad that has four uncapped players, including two in the starting XV, tighthead prop Mohamed Haouas and fullback Anthony Bouthier.
The Montpellier fullback Bouthier completes a backline that has gained a lot of attention from fans and pundits the world over, with many from England acutely aware of how dangerous it could be. It not only contains some of the best players in the northern hemisphere, but some that are in red-hot form currently, none more so than Racing 92 centre Virimi Vakatawa.
If the Fijian-born centre is given space, he will punish England with his power and offloading, as will the prolific try-scorer Teddy Thomas outside him and the ever-impressive Damian Penaud.
For good of World Rugby, don't mess up this talent pool.
That backline. Oof. ? pic.twitter.com/iLZnn5W6Nv
— Arwel Jones (@agjones92) January 30, 2020
With halfbacks Baptiste Serin and Matthieu Jalibert backing up Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack from the bench, there will be no release of pressure throughout the match. In fact, Bordeaux’s Jalibert is arguably the form flyhalf currently in the Top 14.
Have you seen that Backline ???? England issa gone case https://t.co/FX38V7OD8F
— Sama Eatfood (@SamaEmme) January 30, 2020
The hope that many England fans have is that this is still a very inexperienced French pack, and they may struggle to gain the ascendancy up front against an England eight which, along with South Africa’s, is one of the most dominant in world rugby.
The gulf in experience between the two potential packs may be telling, particularly with hookers Julien Marchand and Peato Mauvaka having three caps between them. The lineout may be the area where England seek to find success and deprive France’s backs of a platform to attack.
If France’s pack can stand up to the test posed by Eddie Jones’ forwards, they have the potential in the backline to light up Paris, and the rest of the tournament.
Saracens centre Nick Tompkins looks set to make his Wales debut after being named on the bench for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Italy.
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