France have been dealt another personnel blow in the lead-up to their Six Nations campaign, as star midfielder Virimi Vakatawa has been withdrawn from the Les Bleus squad due to a knee injury.

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Vakatawa was named in Fabien Galthie’s 37-man squad earlier this month as one of four midfielders alongside Gael Fickou, Arthur Vincent and uncapped prospect Julien Delbouis.

However, the powerful 28-year-old has been removed from the squad and replaced by two-test Lyon midfielder Pierre-Louis Barassi after he sustained a knee injury while playing for Racing 92 over the weekend.

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Vakatawa left the field early in the first half of his side’s 33-32 Top 14 defeat to Bordeaux in Paris on Saturday, and the 27-test star will undergo a scan to assess the extent of the damage.

His injury blow is a cruel one for France following the loss of other key players in recent weeks.

Star loose forward Gregory Alldritt was a surprise omission from the French squad last Thursday. The 23-year-old went on to reveal that he is undergoing an examination for an injured knee.

Three days before that, fullback Thomas Ramos was withdrawn from the squad due to a groin issue, which is expected to rule him out for three weeks.

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Both players could still yet feature in the Six Nations, but both have been replaced by four-test back rower Cameron Woki and eight-test outside back Vincent Rattez.

The French squad will assemble for a training camp in Nice today as they eye an improvement on their second-place finishes in last year’s Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup.

France will then open their 2021 Six Nations campaign against Italy in Rome on February 7.

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