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France call up two players but no sign of MHR bad boy

By AAP
Fabien Galthie points at something (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)

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Fabien Galthie has called up to players to his Guinness Six Nations squad, but there’s no room for Montpellier bad boy Mohamed Haouas.

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Haouas was last week convicted for the 2014 burglary of a number of tobacconists in Montpellier and received an 18-month suspended sentence and fined. A court heard how the 27-year-old was linked to the case after a man who ‘moved like a rugby player’ was captured on CCTV footage during the course of the caper.

Up until the conclusion of the long-running case, the 122kg tighthead had been involved in the national setup, but he’s now apparently been overlooked. Galthie instead has called up Clermont loosehead prop Daniel Bibi Biziwu, as well as Toulouse lock Thibaud Flament.

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The Six Nations favourites began their bid for a first title since 2010 with a 37-10 bonus-point win over Italy at a rain-soaked Stade de France, with winger Gabin Villiere running in a hat-trick of tries.

The Azzurri, looking for a first Championship win since 2015 and their first-ever victory in Paris, took a surprise lead on Sunday when teenage debutant Tommaso Menoncello gathered a kick to finish in the corner.

But France struck back with Anthony Jelonch and Villiere tries to take an eight-point lead into halftime.

Villiere carved a path through the Italian defence to cross again after the break before Damian Penaud added the bonus-point score, and Villiere dived over for his third with the clock in the red.

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“You could tell after 20 minutes we were lacking rugby together. Through the game I thought the boys did well,” France team manager Raphael Ibanez told ITV.

“Five tries and five points is good. Villiere is a warrior. He is a very good finisher. He is a good example for all of his teammates for his spirit.”

France are level with Ireland on five points at the top of the table after the opening round, but ahead of them on points difference going into their meeting in Paris next Saturday.

“For next week we have to step up in every department. Ireland are now fourth in world ranking for nothing. The game they played yesterday was good,” Ibanez added.

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Mohamed Haouas
France prop Mohamed Haouas. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Italy face England in Rome next Sunday, where both sides will be looking to respond to opening-day defeats, with Eddie Jones’ England having lost to Scotland.

France kicked off the 2022 Six Nations as the bookies’ favourites, having shone in a November win over New Zealand, but they were without Galthie for the opener following a positive COVID-19 test.

In contrast, not much was expected from an Italy side on a record 32-match Championship losing streak, and Jaminet’s boot soon had the hosts in front.

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But the Azzurri, led by New Zealand coach Kieran Crowley for the first time in the Six Nations, quickly responded when Paolo Garbisi’s cross-field kick was plucked out of the air by 19-year-old Menoncello, who dotted down to become the youngest Six Nations try scorer in 55 years.

An impressive start from Italy was undone when Stephen Varney’s poor pass was intercepted by Jelonch for a simple run-in, and Villiere slid in at the corner in the final act of the first half after Garbisi and Melvyn Jaminet traded penalties.

France increased the pressure in the second half, but had to work hard to break down a stubborn Italian defence.

Gregory Alldritt’s sumptuous knee-high offload sent Villiere through for France’s third try, and Penaud opened up a 20-point lead by exchanging passes with French captain Antoine Dupont to pull the Azzurri defence apart.

With the clock in the red, Villiere dived in at the corner to become the first Frenchman to score a Six Nations hat-trick since Vincent Clerc against Ireland in 2008.

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