CAPTAIN: Charles Ollivon
HEAD COACH: Fabien Galthie
Bernard Le Roux adds an experienced head in the second row, having been a key part of France’s excellent form over last year’s Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup, and is always involved in their better play somewhere. There is no Romain Ntamack in the squad, due to injury, so Mathieu Jalibert and Louis Carbonel will be competing for the starting berth at 10. There are several exciting options among the backs; centres Virimi Vakatawa and Arthur Vincent are both quick, direct centres, whilst young wingers Teddy Thomas and Damian Penaud are exciting players capable of scoring plenty of tries.
Back row Gregory Alldritt can always be depended on to push his team forward, whether that is from the back of the scrum or when France are attacking through the phases. The La Rochelle player loves to find gaps in defences, and opposing teams always need to be alert when he is on the pitch. He has been on the scene for a few years now, but last year was when he really showed what he brings to the team, and there is no doubting that he will be an important player for them this time around as well.
He has been withdrawn from the squad for the opening game against Italy, but we hope, given there has been no reason stated for his absence, that he will play some part in the tournament at some stage.
The half-back area is central to France’s tactics, with the majority of their attacks starting from kicks or passes from those players. With no Romain Ntamack in the squad this year, more will be expected of and need to come from scrum-half Antoine Dupont, but he usually lives up to expectation anyway. France’s hopes could well depend on whether he is in form and able to set attacks going from the central areas of the pitch.
After a few years of being off the pace, France showed in 2020 that they are back on the top stage in international rugby. As mentioned in this preview, they have plenty of players in their squad who can hurt others, and that came through in abundance last year. We have mentioned the key players already in the analysis, but they had a really well-rounded team last year, which meant that they could face any team and adapt to different situations.
There is no doubt that France will be a handful in this year’s tournament, and the famous saying that “you can never count France out until the final whistle has been blown” will definitely be the case this year as well. Given the level of improvement we saw last year, we can only expect that they will be contending for the title again in this year’s tournament. Whether they are able to win or not depends on whether Jalibert and Carbonel are able to adequately fill the hole left by Ntamack’s absence, because, if not, France could lack a creative edge to their play.