France 'most dangerous side in Europe'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: France are the most dangerous side in Europe, with almost as much depth in their squad as the All Blacks, Australia’s rugby director warned ahead of their Test series next month.
Dave Rennie’s Wallabies face a depleted Les Bleus in Sydney on July 7 before they move to Melbourne and Brisbane on July 13 and 17.
Given the need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Australia, an already injury-hit France have left out players from Toulouse and La Rochelle, who will contest the Top 14 final next weekend.
Instead the emphasis in the 42-man squad named Sunday is on youth with Damian Penaud, Teddy Thomas and Romain Taofifenua the only players with more than 20 caps.
In contrast the Wallabies have plenty of experience, led by Michael Hooper (105 Tests) and James Slipper (100), while a host of others have played more than 50 times.
But Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson said France still had a strong squad and the absence of star names like Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack would not worry coach Fabien Galthie.
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: There are 23 uncapped players in France’s tour squad. https://t.co/HYCKdyDEqS
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) June 20, 2021
“The French have so much depth. They have the most depth – outside of New Zealand – in world rugby,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald, pointing to France winning the last two under-20 world titles.
“They’ve always had talent but now they have a really gifted group of kids coming through.
“They came through that under-20s system. They won two [World Cups] on the bounce and the rule of thumb is if you have two good under-20s teams on the bounce, you will have a good Test team in a few years time.
“They have a young, talented group of players that play instinctively and the style that people would perceive as traditionally French. They’re the most dangerous side in Europe. Without doubt.”
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The French squad boasts a strong representation from the teams that won those world titles in 2018 and 2019, including Stade Francais second row Pierre-Henri Azagoh, his counterpart from Racing 92, Ibrahim Diallo, and Castres’ Florent Vanverberghe.
In total, Galthie has 23 uncapped players including Perpignan fullback Melvyn Jaminet, who has never played above Pro D2, and Pau scrumhalf Clovis Le Bail.
The Wallabies won the last meeting between the two sides in November 2016, but they have not played a Test since back-to-back draws against Argentina late last year, which capped an erratic season with just one win from six.
France have played five times this year already, winning three.