France head coach Jacques Brunel has named his 31-man squad to travel to Japan to challenge for the World Cup and there are a few surprise omissions.
Les Bleus have been carrying a 37-man squad for the recent World Cup warm-up matches against Scotland and Italy. Six of those players have now been culled for the narrowed-down squad.
The squad is:
Forwards: Jefferson Poirot, Rabah Slimani, Demba Bamba, Emerick Setiano, Cyril Baille, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Camille Chat, Peato Mauvaka, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Paul Gabrillagues, Arthur Iturria, Bernard Le Roux, Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Louis Picamoles, Yacouba Camara, Wenceslas Lauret.
Backs: Antoine Dupont, Baptiste Serin, Maxime Machenaud, Camille Lopez, Romain Ntamack, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Sofiane Guitoune, Virimi Vakatawa, Yoann Huget, Alivereti Raka, Damian Penaud, Maxime Medard, Thomas Ramos.
Whilst some of the omissions shouldn’t shock anyone – Belleau and Rattez didn’t feature at all in France’s three warm-ups to date – some will come as a bit of a surprise.
Priso was competing with Cyril Baille for a spot in the team in the front row but the slightly more experienced prop looks to have secured the role. Baille looked hungry off the bench in his two opportunities in the recent tests.
Second-rowers Taofifenua and Lambey have missed on selection to the likes of specialists Paul Gabrillagues and Sébastien Vahaamahina as well as utility forward Arthur Iturria.
Lambey’s absence is a big surprise given how influential the Lyon lock was during the Six Nations earlier this year. There’s also the small issue of Gabrillagues’ three-week ban (reduced from the six weeks initially handed out) which will see him miss France’s opening match of the World Cup, against Argentina.
Brunel will evidently be relying on his locks to shoulder a heavy load throughout the World Cup, where they are placed in the ‘Pool of Death’ with Argentina and England.
Les Bleus were poor in this year’s Six Nations competition, finishing with wins over Scotland and Italy but losing their remaining three matches against teams which will mount serious challenges for the World Cup.
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Still, France always tend to show up at World Cups and have made the second-equal most semi-final appearances, alongside Australia, with six to their name. Only three-time champions New Zealand have managed seven semi-final appearances from eight tournaments to date.
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