Paul Willemse’s hopes of forcing his way into the France World Cup squad have been dashed.
The South African, who secured French citizenship last November and was swiftly propelled into the Six Nations, had been training with Jacques Brunel’s squad as one of their six reservists along with 31 players officially chosen to travel to Japan.
The second row would have been hoping that an injury to a lock would open a route for him to be promoted in time for the finals which start in September.
Instead, he has been struck down by injury himself, leaving Brunel to source a replacement reservist – Toulon’s Romain Taofifenua – to help the chosen squad prepare.
A brief French federation statement on Wednesday didn’t specify the injury that forced Willemse out, their media release instead only confirming that the forward would return to his club Montpellier and rehabilitate with them.
— RCT – RC Toulon (@RCTofficiel) July 10, 2019
“Following medical examinations, Paul Willemse is forfeited and leaves the preparation for the Rugby World Cup 2019 to heal with his club,” read the statement.
The former South African under-20 player, who held his side to World Cup glory in 2012, left the Bulls to play for Grenoble in the Top 14 in summer 2014.
He then made the switch to Montpellier the following summer and while he went on to qualify for France under the three-year residency rule, his Test level ambitions were hampered by French rugby president Bernard Laporte insisting that every player qualifying under residency must also have French citizenship.
This only came through for Willemse last November. He was then called up by Brunel and made his debut in the Six Nations defeat to Wales.
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) July 10, 2019
“Once I knew it was possible to play for France it became my 100 percent goal,” he explained at the time.
Willemse featured in all five matches in the tournament, starting twice, but he failed to make it into Brunel’s 31 for Japan, leaving him training with the France squad as one of a half-dozen reservists on their standby list.
WATCH: Part one of the two-part RugbyPass documentary on the many adventures that fans experience in Japan at this year’s World Cup.
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