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France make wholesale changes for Wales clash

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: France head coach Fabien Galthie on Friday announced eight changes for his team for this weekend’s Six Nations trip to Wales in Round Four of the competition.

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The alterations are the most Galthie has made from one Six Nations game to another since taking over in late 2019.

Galthie hands three players their debuts for Sunday’s game after the 13-13 draw with Italy in their last game on February 25.

Fullback Leo Barre, centre Nicholas Depoortere and lock Emmanuel Meafou will make their Test bows in Cardiff with wing Louis Bielle-Biarrey, scrumhalf Nolann Le Garrec, No.8 Gregory Alldritt, lock Thibaud Flament and hooker Julien Marchand the other changes.

Galthie was forced into three changes with centre Jonathan Danty suspended and flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert injured and Posolo Tuilagi sidelined with a fitness issue.

“The facts mean that spaces have been freed up with the red card, injuries and performances,” Galthie told reporters.

“I’ve always said that players have to grab the shirt, which has happened this week and what has happened for almost five years,” the former France captain added.

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Usual fullback Thomas Ramos moves to the No.10 shirt, freeing up space for Barre with 21-year-old Depoortere standing in for Danty.

Former France Under-20s captain Depoortere has been in superb form for Bordeaux-Begles this season, scoring seven tries in 18 appearances.

Depoortere has been training with Galthie’s side since last season’s Six Nations, when he was still a member of the youth set-up.

“He would come and challenge us, work with us during all the team training sessions,” Galthie said.

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“We know him, he knows us.

“It’s a first cap that’s been prepared for more than a year.”

Expecting Meafou

Bielle-Biarrey comes in for Matthis Lebel, Le Garrec starts instead of the criticised Maxime Lucu and Alldritt returns from injury to captain the side instead of Paul Boudehent.

The new second-row partnership of Toulouse teammates Meafou and Flament replaces Cameron Woki and Tuilagi while Marchand steps in for Peato Mauvaka.

New Zealand-born Meafou qualified for France on residency grounds in December after moving to Toulouse in 2018 from Australia.

The 145kg forward has also been involved with Galthie’s outfit over the last 12 months and was named in the original Six Nations squad but suffered a knee injury.

“He’s a player we’ve been expecting for more than a year,” Galthie

“It’s the moment to thank the Australian federation for training him up and Toulouse, who managed to recruit him to give him a new chance to play rugby because in Australia he had it hard.

“Toulouse have made him the player he is today,” he added.

On the bench La Rochelle tighthead Georges-Henri Colombe is also set for his debut as France eye just their second win in this year’s Six Nations.

France: 15 Leo Barre, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Nicolas Depoortere, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Nolann Le Garrc, 8 Gregory Alldritt (captain), 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Sebastien Taofifenua, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Yoram Moefana.

Date: Sunday, March 10
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15.00 (16.00 French time; 15.00 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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