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Wallabies row intel proving valuable in France

By AAP
Will Skelton of the Wallabies runs with the ball during the The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 29, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

The Wallabies second-row has a distinctly French flavour as skipper Will Skelton and Richie Arnold line up against many of their club teammates in Paris in their World Cup warm-up.

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The Australian side will fine-tune their preparations for the tournament in a clash with hosts France on Monday morning (AEST).

Coach Eddie Jones has called on Skelton – who plays for La Rochelle and also Arnold, who turns out for Toulouse – giving the Wallabies a France-based, French-speaking lock combination for the first time against Les Bleus.

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Jones also pulled a shock move by naming Skelton as his World Cup skipper but assistant coach Dan Palmer said the giant forward as well as Arnold were proven winners.

Skelton has won two European Champions Cup titles with La Rochelle while Arnold has claimed the Top 14 title three times with his club.

“Will’s a genuine leader in this group and it’s good for us to have guys like him and Richie in and around the squad,” Palmer told reporters.

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“They’re not only playing over here and adding to their game, they’re playing in winning teams and they’re used to winning and bringing their culture to the group.”

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Of France’s 33-man squad, 17 players come from either the Toulouse or La Rochelle clubs including skipper, Toulouse halfback Antoine Dupont.

Arnold said he was excited to take on France at Stade de France, which is the venue for Australia’s opening pool game against Georgia on September 10 (AEST).

“I play a lot of these guys and a lot are my friends and I’m looking forward to playing in front of Stade de France in front of 80,000 people, it’s going to be massive,” said the 33-year-old, who is the identical twin brother of former Test lock Rory Arnold.

Rory was tipped to add to his 32 Test caps as part of the World Cup squad but opted to remain in Japan rather than make himself available for selection this year.

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Richie said he regularly sought advice from his brother, who was part of the Wallabies 2019 World Cup campaign in Japan which ended at the quarter-final stage.

“I speak a lot, a couple of times a week and I pick his brain as he has been here before at the last World Cup and has got a lot of experience,” Richie said.

He said a win over one of the tournament favourites would do wonders for the Wallabies, who are yet to bank a victory in four matches under Jones.

“It’s massive – every time you put on the gold jersey you’re representing your country so that’s super important, you’ve got a job to do there,” he said.

“And just building momentum, we started to do through the Rugby Championship and build our game so it’s important to keep doing that this weekend and get some momentum leading into that Georgian game.”

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