France get their playmaker back
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Flyhalf Romain Ntamack will start France’s year-end opener with Australia this weekend despite last playing for his club in September, Les Bleus head coach Fabien Galthié announced on Thursday.
Ntamack, 23, has been out for more than six weeks due to an ankle injury and will partner World Rugby player of the year and Toulouse teammate Antoine Dupont for Saturday’s Test in Paris.
Tighthead prop Cyril Baille, who also plays for Toulouse, is handed the No.1 shirt having returned for his Top 14 outfit last weekend from a groin problem which he suffered during pre-season.
Lock Paul Willemse misses out because of a thigh issue, leaving Thibaud Flament, one of seven Toulouse players in the starting lineup, to link with Racing 92’s Cameron Woki in the second row.
Galthié has made 11 changes to the side that started July’s second Test win in Japan including at fullback where Thomas Ramos, who has scored three tries and 109 points so far this season for Toulouse as Ntamack’s replacement at flyhalf, comes in for youngster Max Spring.
The Six Nations Grand Slam champions were without a host of first-choice players for the games against the Brave Blossoms due to a clash with the Top 14 knock-out stages.
France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Yoram Moefana, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Anthony Jelonch, 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacement: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Sipili Falatea, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Killian Geraci, 21 Sekou Macalou, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Matthieu Jalibert.
Date: Saturday, November 5
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT; 07.00, Sunday, November 6 AEDT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)