'New' pivot to steer France
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Exciting Bordeaux-Begles flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert returns to the France team that takes on Scotland at Murrayfield in the Nations Cup, coach Fabien Galthie announced Friday.
The 22-year-old, whose only previous start came in the 13-15 defeat by Ireland in the 2018 Six Nations, takes over from Romain Ntamack who has a thigh injury.
“He [Jalibert] has the chance to start and that’s what he wanted as well. This is Matthieu Jalibert’s time,” said Galthie.
Jalibert will link up with Antoine Dupont at half-back in a back line that also sees Thomas Ramos return at fullback for the injured Anthony Bouthier and taking over Ntamack’s goalkicking duties.
“That will allow Matthieu Jalibert to focus on his role as a key player, a pivotal player, both in attack and defence,” said Galthie.
Gael Fickou moves to centre to make way for Teddy Thomas on the wing.
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Rewarding some of his habitual replacement, Galthie has made eight changes in total from the side that beat Ireland 35-27 in the delayed closing Six Nations game at the end of October.
The front row has had a total revamp and there is a first start for Lyon flanker Dylan Cretin, who has made four previous appearances from the bench.
“Since the start of our adventure, on February 2 against England, we have worked with these players as finishers,” explained Galthie.
“They have always had to respond to different situations, emergency situations. They deserve to start.”
Toulon’s 21-year-old flyhalf Louis Carbonel is named on the bench for the first time.
It will be Galthie’s last chance to name a team without restriction, other than injury. A deal made with the Top 14 clubs means players can only make three appearances for Les Bleus during the autumn tests — they have already played Wales, in a warm-up, and Ireland.
They are due to face Italy next week and then play a classification game in early December.
France’s first match in the Nations Cup was cancelled because of coronavirus with the Fiji team.
Galthie’s team head to Murrayfield on the back of four successive defeats there, including a 28-17 loss in the Six Nations in March. Their last win in Edinburgh was in 2014.
France: 15 Thomas Ramos; 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Vincent Rattez; 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont; 8 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 7 Camille Chat, 6 Demba Bamba, 5 Bernard Le Roux, 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Dylan Cretin, 2 Charles Ollivon (captain), 1 Gregory Alldritt
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Cameron Woki, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Louis Carbonel, 23 Arhtur Vincent
Date: Sunday, November 22
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 17.15 (18.15 French time; 17.15 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)