France go light on backs
The trimmed 23-man French squad for the Six Nations opening round clash with England in Paris next weekend feature just nine backline players.
France coach Philippe Saint-André reduced his initial squad of 30 to 23 on Thursday and opted for an unusual balance of 14 forwards and only nine backs, Remi Tales being the only specialist flyhalf.
The seven players released are Maxime Mermoz, Sebastian Vahaamahina, Virgile Bruni, Jean-Marcellin Buttin, Jules Plisson, Geoffrey Palis and Hugo Bonneval.
Given the selection, Les Bleus will start the championship with a six-two forwards-backs split bench.
Pascal Pape will captain France after Thierry Dusautoir was ruled out of the tournament through injury.
Saint-André said the battle between the old foes is a thrilling way to kick off the Six Nations and believes it could determine the eventual champions.
"We don't start with the starter, but with the 'Rosbif', so with the main course!" said Saint-André.
"It's always a huge game against England and the atmosphere will be special.
"The Six Nations is a fantastic event especially when France play against England.
"Some people don't have a clue about rugby, but each year they sit in front of the TV to watch France against England. It's about history."
Forwards: Thomas Domingo (Clermont), Yannick Forestier (Castres), Benjamin Kayser (Clermont), Dimitri Szarzewski (Racing Metro), Nicolas Mas (Montpellier), Rabah Slimani (Stade Francais), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Francais), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Pascal Pape (Stade Francais), Bernard Le Roux (Racing Metro), Antoine Burban (Stade Francais), Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse), Damien Chouly (Clermont), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse).
Backs: Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse), Maxime Machenaud (Racing-Metro), Remi Tales (Castres), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Gael Fickou (Toulouse), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Maxime Médard (Toulouse), Brice Dulin (Castres).