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Top flight rugby returns to Bilbao

By Ian Cameron
Semi Radradra - Getty Images

Bilbao is set to host an international rugby match at San Mamés on 22 June where Fabien Galthie’s France will compete against a World XV in the Spanish city.

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The clash will act as an appetiser to the French team’s tour of Argentina and will feature some of the world’s best rugby union players.

Confirmed players for the World XV team include notable names such as Mako and Billy Vunipola, Semi Radradra, Maxime Machenaud and Camille López. They’ll be coached by Ian Foster – the former All Blacks head honcho – and Frenchman Patrice Collaz – the current Montpellier Head Coach.

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France – ranked third worldwide and recent runners-up in the Six Nations – will field a strong team with several leading players from the Top 14. After the match in Bilbao, the team will head to Argentina for their summer tour, aiming to improve on a hit and miss Six Nations campaign.

“It’s an incredible honour to be asked to coach the World XV and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Foster.  “To coach an invitational side made up of top-class international players from around the globe is something truly unique. And playing the French team in the Basque region of Bilbao, we will certainly want to put on a show of attacking rugby, full of tries so the French, Spanish and Basque fans come away being fully entertained.”

“I am also looking forward to joining up with the former French prop Patrice Collazo – he brings a wealth of experience to the coaching set up with stints at a number of the Top 14 clubs, La Rochelle, Toulon, Brive and currently at Montpellier.”

“We are in the process of putting together an impressive squad of players and Maxime Machenaud (Bayonne & France), Camille Lopez (Bayonne & France), Mako Vunipola (Saracens & England), Semi Radradra (Lyon & Fiji), Billy Vunipola (Saracens & England), Tevita Tatafu (Bayonne) are already confirmed to play for the World XV.”

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This will be the second rugby match to be held at San Mamés following the European Rugby Champions Cup Final in 2018, which is due to return in 2026.

Jean-Marc Lhermet, Vice-President of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) said: “We are pleased to be able to announce today this very high-level international match in Bilbao. Our French team is a magnificent tool for exporting rugby to countries where our sport continues to grow. It is a pride and a privilege to participate in its development. We can’t wait to see this magical stadium filled with the massive atmosphere that Basque supporters know how to create”.

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