Romain Ntamack and Virimi Vakatawa are the big-name returnees as France named their 31-man training squad ahead of their Guinness Six Nations match with England next weekend. Hooker Camille Chat also returns to the squad after an injury layoff.

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Arthur Vincent and Louis Carbonel are notable absentees, as well as Gabin Villiere who will undergo surgery for a hand injury sustained in the Top 14.

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Giant tighthead Uini Atonio is also missing from the squad and – according to Rugby Rama – is said to still be dealing with the virus. 130kg Castres prop Wilfrid Hounkpatin has been named as his replacement.

Ntamack and Vakatawa were both injured prior to the tournament, which saw them miss the first three rounds.  Their return is a welcome boost to Fabien Galthie’s France, who has been rocked by positive C-19 tests and a scandal around what led to the outbreak in the camp.

Over half of the squad tested positive for the virus and as a result, their Round Three clash with Scotland was officially postponed, with head coach Galthie being identified as a ‘patient zero’. The ebullient Frenchman left the camp bubble to watch his son play a match, a decision that ultimately led to half the squad and members of the staff testing positive for the virus.

A meeting last Friday morning between French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte, education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and sports minister Roxana Maracineanu resulted in the championship favourites being given the green light to continue playing in a season where away wins over Italy and Ireland were followed by the postponement of their home game with Scotland.

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Maracineanu had threatened to withdraw France because of the outbreak which saw twelve players and four backroom staff, including head coach Fabien Galthie, test positive for Covid-19, forcing the postponement of last Sunday’s round three Stade de France match against the Scots.

– additional reporting PA

 

 

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