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What Castro-Ferreira will bring to France U20s against New Zealand

Toulouse's French flanker Mathis Castro-Ferreira (L) runs with the ball to score his team's fifth try during the French Top14 rugby union match between Stade Toulousain Rugby (Toulouse) and Castres Olympique at the Ernest-Wallon stadium in Toulouse, south-western France on March 2, 2024. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP) (Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)

The arrival of Stade Toulousain back-row Mathis Castro-Ferreira has shaken up the 23-man Bleuets squad that will face New Zealand in their second Pool A match at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Stellenbosch on Thursday.


Two days before the opening game against Spain, coach Sébastien Calvet stated: “This team is a backbone that, according to the initial plans, will be repeated if the players are fit to face the Baby Blacks.”

Les Bleuets delivered a solid performance in their 49-12 victory over Spain in the opening match on Saturday. However, the coaches have made five changes, the most notable being the inclusion of Mathis Castro-Ferreira (Stade Toulousain) and Corentin Mézou (RC Toulon).

“With the return of Mathis Castro-Ferreira and Corentin Mézou, we have two important additions to the squad who will replace players like Antonin Corso and Alexis Caumel,” Calvet confirmed.

World Rugby U20 Championship
France U20
26 - 27
New Zealand U20
All Stats and Data

Arrived on Sunday evening, first training session on Tuesday morning

Stade Toulousain back-row Mathis Castro-Ferreira, fresh from watching his club win the Top 14 title last Friday, touched down in South Africa on Sunday and hit the training ground on Tuesday.

“We had to do a check-up with him to make sure all the lights were green,” explained coach Calvet. “He was pretty much kept aside yesterday, but immediately got involved with the group.

“We know he’s one of the leaders of this squad. Today’s training was completely normal and went very well.


“Castro-Ferreira brought a lot of motivation and excitement to meet his teammates and a strong desire to play rugby. He was in the starting blocks, eager to eventually join the professional ranks at Stade Toulousain. Despite the strength of the squad, he hasn’t been selected recently, so he’s very fit and keen to play.

“The only concern was the check-up. We needed our physical trainers to ensure he could last 80, 60, or at least 50 minutes. If it was less, we might use him as a finisher.

“He was frustrated not to train yesterday, but we wanted to take things step by step. There’s no time difference with France when you’re in Cape Town, so there was no reason not to put him in the starting line-up, knowing he can go for more than 40 minutes.”

Castro-Ferreira slots in at No.8, replacing Brent Liufau, who moves to the bench. Toulon’s Mézou is preferred over Antonin Corso in the second row.



Last 2 Meetings

Average Points scored
First try wins
Home team wins

Liufau’s power in reserve

“Brent Liufau, everyone knows that last week we put him at No.8 to let him get up to pace. He hadn’t played since the pre-season friendly with Pau,” Calvet said.

“In the meantime, Mathis Castro-Ferreira has joined us and Corentin Mézou has also returned. He wasn’t injured, but he wasn’t 100 per cent to play against Spain.

“All these factors led to Brent coming on as a replacement. We know that in a high-intensity game – which is likely to be the case – 80 minutes might be tough for Brent. We prefer to keep him on as a finisher who can give us a lot of power.

“We know how generous these two players are. Corentin, if he starts a game and plays 80 minutes, there will be 70 tasks to do, many of which are unglamorous, behind-the-scenes work, showing generosity in the service of his teammates.

“Mathis might be a bit more forward in the game; we’ll see him carrying the ball. That’s the kind of player we need to beat this kind of opposition.”

Three changes at the back

At the back, Mathis Ferté moves from right to left wing to make room for Nathan Bollengier at the expense of Hoani Bosmorin, who has not been selected. The final change to the starting XV is at full-back, where, unlike in the opening game against Spain, Xan Mousques (Bayonne) will start, opening the door for Axel Desperes to potentially join the side.

“In terms of the backs, we want to keep Axel fresh because of the consistency of the kickers on the pitch. Axel has the ability to be flexible, to play 10, centre and full-back,” Calvet said.

“Unlike Xan, who has a lot of talent but can only play one position, even if he can play as a centre or wing. But he doesn’t have enough experience in those positions for us to use him in a game like this. In fact, we’re keeping the utility back as a finisher and the one who only plays one position to start the game.”

France team to play New Zealand:
15. Xan Mousques
14. Nathan Bollengier
13. Fabien Brau Boirie
12. Mathys Belaubre
11. Mathis Ferté
10. Hugo Reus (captain)
9. Léo Carbonneau
1. Lino Julien
2. Barnabé Massa
3. Zinedine Aouad
4. Corentin Mézou
5. Charles Kanté Samba
6. Joé Quere Karaba
7. Geoffrey Malaterre
8. Mathis Castro-Ferreira

16. Thomas Lacombe
17. Lorencio Boyer Gallardo
18. Thomas Duchêne
19. Brent Liufau
20. Sialevailea Tolofua
21. Thomas Souverbie
22. Maxence Biasotto
23. Axel Desperes

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Tom 50 minutes ago
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