Top14 deal forces France into changes
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: France head coach Fabien Galthie handed back-row Sekou Macalou a first cap since 2017 as he was forced to make 13 changes to his team to host Italy in the Nations Cup this weekend.
Macalou, 25, has been in form for club side Stade Francais this season and benefits from an agreement between the French Rugby Federation and the Top 14 league which stipulates a maximum of three appearances for each player during the end-of-year campaign.
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“It’s the contract, the deal, we know about it, we’ll deal with it,” Galthie said.
“We have been focused this week on building a collective experience with every possible minute spent together,” the former France captain added.
Macalou replaces skipper Charles Ollivon at openside as scrumhalf Baptiste Serin takes over the captain’s armband at the Stade de France on Saturday.
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The only two survivors from last Sunday’s win at Scotland are wing Teddy Thomas and flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert.
There are Test debuts for centre Jean-Pascal Barraque, wing Gabin Villiere, locks Killian Geraci and Baptiste Pesenti as well as prop Rodrigue Neti.
Macalou’s domestic teammate Jonathan Danty will make his first international appearance since 2016 as fullback Brice Dulin last featured for his country three years ago.
There are six uncapped players on the bench including 20-year-old Bordeaux-Begles centre Yoram Moefana, who has played just 11 senior club matches.
Third-placed Italy trail Les Bleus in the pool ahead of the final round of group games. A win for France would secure a place in next weekend’s final.
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Anthony Jelonch, 7 Sekou Macalou, 6 Cameron Woki, 5 Baptiste Pesenti, 4 Killian Geraci, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Rodrigue Neti
Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolignar, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Cyril Cazeaux, 20 Swan Rebbadj, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Louis Carbonel, 23 Yoram Moefana
Date: Saturday, November 28
Venue: Stade de France, France
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley, Mike Adamson
TMO: Sam Grove-White