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France to employ Boks' blueprint for Six Nations opener

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: France head coach Fabien Galthie has named his team to face Ireland in the Six Nations opener in Marseille.

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Scrumhalf Maxime Lucu will start against Ireland as the Les Blues embark on their campaign without talismanic captain Antoine Dupont, head coach Galthie said on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old Lucu deputises for Dupont as the former World Rugby player of the year misses the tournament to prepare to play Sevens at the Paris Olympics.

No.8 Gregory Alldritt takes over the captaincy from Dupont for Friday’s game in Marseille against titleholders Ireland.

Another noticeable change in the team set-up is the six-two split on the bench.

Galthie has opted for six forwards and two backline players on the bench, an approach made famous by the Springboks Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.

The Boks coaching staff used the technique in the 2019 Final against England and took it a step further when they beat the All Blacks with a seven-one split in the 2023 World Cup Final in France.

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Taking a leaf out of the Erasmus manual, Galthie’s France bench will have Nolann Le Garrec and Louis Bielle-Biarrey as the only backline players.

While flank Paul Boudehent will be extra forward on the bench.

In the starting XV, Matthieu Jalibert will don the No.10 jersey. The back three will see Yoram Moefana and Damian Penaud at the wings while Thomas Ramos is the fullback.

Gael Fickou and the hard-running Jonathan Danty are the midfield combination.

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In the pack South African-born Paul Willemse partners with Paul Gabrillagues in the second row. Alldritt, Charles Ollivon and Francois Cros make up the loose trio. While, the front row comprises Uini Atonio, hooker Peato Mauvaka and prop Cyril Baille.

France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Yoram Moefana; 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Lucu; 8 Gregory Alldritt (captain), 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros; 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Paul Gabrillagues; 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Cameron Woki, 20 Romain Taofifenua, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Nolann Le Garrec, 23 Louis Bielle-Biarrey

Date: Friday, February 2
Venue: Stade VĂ©lodrome, Marseille
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT; 20.00 UK and Ireland time)
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England) & Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

France to employ Boks' blueprint for Six Nations opener

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