Six Nations

Noves names four uncapped players

Guy Noves (File)
Guy Noves (File)

Marcoussis - Newly-installed France coach Guy Noves on Thursday named four uncapped players in his starting XV for the Six Nations home opener against Italy on Saturday.

Fiji-born winger Virimi Vakatawa, previously with the France sevens team and Racing 92, Toulouse scrumhalf Sebastien Bezy, Clermont lock Paul Jedrasiak and Stade Francais centre Jonathan Danty all make the cut for France's first game since Les Bleus' humiliating 62-13 defeat by New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-final.

There are also three debutants on the bench in Racing hooker Camille Chat, Bordeaux-Begles prop Jefferson Poirot and Toulouse flanker Yacouba Camara.

Toulon's Guilhem Guirado captains the team from hooker, with Rabah Slimani and Eddy Ben Arous filling out the front row. Jedrasiak joins Yoann Maestri in the boiler room, while Wenceslas Lauret's good form for Racing sees him aligned with No 8 Louis Picamoles and Damien Chouly in the back-row.

Bezy's outstanding form for Toulouse parachutes him into the pivotal scrum-half spot, partnered with Jules Plisson, who missed France's disastrous World Cup campaign through injury.

Danty forms the midfield with Gael Fickou, with Vakatawa on one wing and Hugo Bonneval on the other, Maxime Medard completing the back three at full-back.

Bench cover also includes New Zealand-born prop Uini Atonio, flanker Alexandre Flanquart, halfbacks Maxime Machenaud and Jean-Marc Doussain, and three-quarter Maxime Mermoz.

All eyes will certainly fall on Vakatawa, who has shone for an ever-improving France sevens team since becoming eligible for France in 2013 on the three years' residency rule.

While an imposing, attacking threat with ball in hand, the 23-year-old Fijian's defensive qualities will doubtless be tested.

"We don't have guarantees with any player," said Noves, who will celebrate his 62nd birthday on Friday.

"We prefer to see them in real conditions rather than wait without giving them a chance.

"What has pleased us (with Vakatawa) is his keenness, it's the fact that he has signed up for the gameplan we like."

Noves is a known taskmaster, having gone from being the servant of 35 years at Toulouse, 13 as a player and 22 as the coach under whom they won 10 French championships and four European Cups to France coach.

"I guarantee you they'll give their best," he pledged. "They're not going to disappoint us in their behaviour and will leave everything out there."


France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Hugo Bonneval, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Sébastien Bezy, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Eddy Ben Arous

Substitutes: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Uini Atonio, 18 Jefferson Poirot, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Yacouba Camara, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Maxime Mermoz

Italy: 15 David Odiete, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 George Fabio Biagi, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ornel Gega, 1 Andrea Lovotti

Substitutes: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Valerio Bernabo, 20 Andries van Schalkwyk, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Kelly Haimona, 23 Luke McLean

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