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Named: France bring back battering ram Bastareaud

Mathieu Bastareaud in action for Toulon

Mathieu Bastareaud will make his first France appearance for over two years and the uncapped Anthony Belleau will start at fly-half against New Zealand on Saturday.

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Bastareaud has not played for his country since the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against the All Blacks in October 2015, but will start versus the same opponents at Stade de France this weekend.

Belleau is preferred to Francois Trinh-Duc in the absence of Camille Lopez for depleted Les Bleus and will form a young half-back pairing with Antoine Dupont, who gets the nod over Baptiste Serin.

Lock Paul Gabrillagues and back-row Judicael Cancoriet will also make their debuts against the world champions in Paris.

Wing Teddy Thomas returns to the side, having been absent since February 2016.

France: Nans Ducuing, Teddy Thomas, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Mathieu Bastareaud, Yoann Huget, Anthony Belleau, Antoine Dupont; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Paul Gabrillagues, Judicael Cancoriet, Kevin Gourdon, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Clement Maynadier, Raphael Chaume, Daniel Kotze, Paul Jedrasiak, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Francois Trinh-Duc, Damian Penaud.

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Turlough 4 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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