France get their SA-born lock back
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Lock Paul Willemse was named in France’s Six Nations squad after missing five Tests last year with a knee injury, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) announced.
Willemse, 30, sustained the issue in May and returned for his club Montpellier in September, 12 months out from France hosting this year’s Rugby World Cup.
The Pretoria-born lock missed July’s series win over Japan and victories over Australia, South Africa and the Brave Blossoms in November as France set a national record of 13 Test successes.
Toulouse flank Francois Cros also makes his Test comeback after recovering from a knee issue.
Les Bleus head coach Fabien Galthie has also named eight uncapped players in his set-up including Racing 92’s Nolann Le Garrec and Montpellier’s Leo Coly as back-ups to scrumhalf and captain Antoine Dupont with Maxime Lucu suffering an ankle issue.
The other debutants are Bordeaux-Begles backs Louis Bielle-Biarrey and Romain Buros, Lyon wing Ethan Dumortier, centres in Stade Francais’ Julien Delbouis, Pau’s Emilien Gailleton and La Rochelle loose forward Paul Boudehent.
Loose forward Yacouba Camara is included for the first time since the 2019 World Cup, having led Montpellier to the Top 14 title in June.
There is no place for Australian-born lock Emmanuel Meafou as the Toulouse lock is waiting for his French passport, as demanded by the FFR, and there are doubts over whether he has completed the necessary five years of residency, as required by World Rugby.
Racing 92 forward Cameron Woki as well as wing Gabin Villiere, second-choice hooker Peato Mauvaka, prop Jean-Baptise Gros and lock Killian Geraci are also sidelined.
La Rochelle wing Teddy Thomas continues to wait for his first Test appearances since July 2021 and was substituted at half-time during last weekend’s Champions Cup win over Ulster.
Backs: Romain Buros (Bordeaux-Begles, Melvyn Jaminet (Toulouse), Thomas Ramos (Toulouse); Louis Bielle-Biarrey (Bordeaux-Begles), Ethan Dumortier (Lyon), Damian Penaud (Clermont), Matthis Lebel (Toulouse); Pierre-Louis Barassi (Toulouse), Julien Delbouis (Stade Francais), Gael Fickou (Racing 92), Emilien Gailleton (Pau), Yoram Moefana (Bordeaux-Begles); Antoine Hastoy (La Rochelle), Matthieu Jalibert (Bordeaux-Begles), Romain Ntamack (Toulouse); Leo Coly (Montpellier), Antoine Dupont (Toulouse), Nolann Le Garrec (Racing 92).
Forwards: Gregory Alldritt (La Rochelle), Alexandre Becognee (Montpellier); Paul Boudehent (La Rochelle), Yacouba Camara (Montpellier), Dylan Cretin (Lyon), Francois Cros (Toulouse), Anthony Jelonch (Toulouse), Sekou Macalou (Stade Francais), Charles Ollivon (Toulon); Bastien Chalureau (Montpellier), Thibaud Flament (Toulouse), Thomas Jolmes (Bordeaux-Begles), Thomas Lavault (La Rochelle), Romain Taofifenua (Lyon), Paul Willemse (Montpellier); Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), Mohamed Haouas (Montpellier), Sipili Falatea (Bordeaux-Begles), Gaetan Barlot (Castres), Julien Marchand (Toulouse), Teddy Baubigny (Toulon), Cyril Baille (Toulouse), Dany Priso (Toulon), Reda Wardi (La Rochelle).