Six Nations

Spedding keeps French spot

Scott Spedding (Getty Images)
Scott Spedding (Getty Images)

Paris - New France coach Guy Noves rang the changes, calling up eight newcomers, including France Sevens star Virimi Vakatawa, in his 31-man squad for the upcoming Six Nations tournament.

"We tried to involve young players on every line," explained Noves, who took over following France's ignominious Rugby World Cup exit in October and a record 62-13 quarter-final defeat to winners New Zealand.

Fiji-born centre Vakatawa, 23, who started his career at Racing 92, has over the past year established himself as a star of international calibre in France's Sevens team, with his explosive and versatile style catching the eye of Noves and his coaching staff.

"We tried to build a team which will allow us to work in continuity, with an eye to the next four years," said Noves.

Scrumhalf Sebastien Bezy, lock Paul Jedrasiak, flanks Yacouba Camara and Kevin Gourdon, prop Jefferson Poirot, hooker Camille Chat and centre Jonathan Danty will also join the group from January 25-27 before France open their Six Nations campaign against Italy on February 6.

The eight newcomers have already linked up with the team during group training sessions on January 4 and 11.

South African-born fullback Scott Spedding keeps his spot in the squad, while scrumhalf Rory Kockott remains omitted.

Veteran flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc, still recovering from a shinbone injury, has been provisionally left out of the squad and replaced by Toulouse's Jean-Marc Doussain.

"We had a discussion with Francois. He knew that his presence depended on his performances on the pitch. We know that Francois has resumed training very seriously," said Noves.

The main surprise however was the inclusion of Stade Francais flank Antoine Burban, also on the comeback trail after three months out injured.

Burban, 28, who has three caps, replaces South African-born flanker Bernard le Roux, who is absent for personal reasons.

France begin their Six Nations campaign at home to Italy at the Stade de France in Paris on February 6.

In four tournaments under Noves' predecessor Philippe Saint-Andre, Les Bleus never finished above fourth and even took the wooden spoon in 2013.

Squad:

Forwards (16)

Eddy Ben Arous (Racing 92), Jefferson Poirot (Bordeaux-Begles), Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), Rabah Slimani (Stade Francais), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon, captain), Camille Chat (Racing 92), Yoann Maestri (Toulon), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Francais), Sebastien Vahaamahina (Clermont), Paul Jedrasiak (Clermont), Yacouba Camara (Toulouse), Damien Chouly (Clermont), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse), Antoine Burban (Stade Francais), Kevin Gourdon (La Rochelle)

Backs (15)

Sebastien Bezy (Toulouse), Morgan Parra (Clermont), Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92), Jules Plisson (Stade Francais), Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse), Jonathan Danty (Stade Francais), Alexandre Dumoulin (Racing 92), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Gael Fickou (Toulouse), Remi Lamerat (Castres), Benjamin Fall (Montpellier), Virimi Vakatawa (FFR), Maxime Medard (Toulouse), Hugo Bonneval (Stade Francais), Scott Spedding (Clermont)

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