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Giant lock Meafou a surprise call-up by France

By Ian Cameron
Emmanuel Meafou of Toulouse before the Heineken Champions Cup Pool B Round 1 match between Munster and Toulouse at Thomond Park in Limerick. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

France has added Emmanuel Meafou, the enormous 24-year-old second-row from Toulouse, to their training squad for their upcoming Six Nations clash against Wales.

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The hulking second row, who was born in Australia, will train with Fabien Galthie’s national team despite not yet being eligible for selection.

L’Equipe reported that France has called up 14 players to train with the squad ahead of their final match, and Meafou’s inclusion has surprised many.

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The 140kg Meafou has quickly made a name for himself in French rugby. The towering youngster started his senior rugby career in the Shute Shield in Australia but was overlooked by the Melbourne Rebels, despite featuring for their feeder team Melbourne Rising.

The Rebels’ loss is very much French rugby’s gain, with Meafou now a regular feature for the French giants Toulouse, where he rose from relative obscurity during a breakout season in 2021/22.

The 6’8 colossus is now a French citizen and is on course to become available for France in 2024, when he has completed his five-year residency rule under World Rugby’s regulations. His inclusion has generated excitement among French rugby fans, who are eager to see Meafou added to their already formidable pack.

Despite his Australian heritage, Meafou has expressed a desire to play for France, his adopted country. “France is definitely on my radar, and there’s been a little bit of discussion around it, and I’m working towards getting my passport,” Meafou said in an interview with RugbyPass’ Le French Rugby Podcast in 2022. “I’ve been here now for over three years so I would definitely love to play for France.”

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His career could have been very different, as he was offered a spot in the NFL’s international player pathway, which he ultimately turned done for another crack at rugby union.

“I loved the idea. I weighed in at 150kg at the time but they wanted me heavier, gyming three times a day to get up to 160 kg of pure muscle. I thought: ‘I can live this life’.”

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