France Makes 13 Changes, Includes 5 New Caps To Face Italy
PARIS: France coach Fabien Galthie made 13 changes and included five debutants to face Italy in the Autumn Nations Cup on Saturday as part of an agreement on rotating players.
Only flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert and right winger Teddy Thomas remained on Thursday from the starting lineup which contained Scotland 22-15 last weekend at Murrayfield.
The new caps at Stade de France are prop Rodrigue Neti; locks Killian Geraci and Baptiste Pesenti; center Jean-Pascal Barraque; and winger Gabin Villiere.
Scrumhalf Baptiste Serin replaced Charles Ollivon as captain and wins his 39th cap, four years after his debut as one of the team’s most promising young players.
Serin is one of only three players in the team with at least 20 caps, the others being Thomas (22) and fullback Brice Dulin (30).
Jalibert will take the kicking duties.
There are also six new faces on the bench, tallying 11 uncapped players in the matchday 23. Tighthead prop Uini Atonio brings vital experience with 32 test caps.
The sweeping changes are necessary in an agreement between the French Rugby Federation and French league clubs restricting players to appearing in only three of the five internationals this autumn so the Top 14 clubs don’t lose too many players.
The agreement was reached last month following weeks of fierce bickering between the FFR and the French league (LNR), who wanted only five tests scheduled. Clubs threatened to retain players.
A total of 31 players were made available for France’s matches, instead of the 42 Galthie wanted, but France will play only five tests after a scheduled match against Fiji was canceled after a virus outbreak in the Fijian camp.
But if France beats Italy and tops Group B, it could play the final, likely against Six Nations champion England at Twickenham, with a weakened team unless a new agreement is reached between the FFR and the LNR.
A minute’s silence will be held before Saturday’s game in memory of France great Christophe Dominici, and players will wear his nickname Domi on their left sleeves.
The popular Dominici died on Tuesday following a fall from a building in western Paris. The Nanterre prosecutors office opened an enquiry into the death, but did not say whether suicide was a possibility or otherwise comment.
France: Brice Dulin, Teddy Thomas, Jean-Pascal Barraque, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere, Matthieu Jalibert, Baptiste Serin (captain); Anthony Jelonch, Sekou Macalou, Cameron Woki, Baptiste Pesenti, Killian Geraci, Dorian Aldegheri, Peato Mauvaka, Rodrigue Neti. Reserves: Teddy Baubigny, Hassane Kolingar, Uini Atonio, Cyril Cazeaux, Swan Rebbadj, Baptiste Couilloud, Louis Carbonel, Yoram Moefana.
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