Passport control halts SA-born lock's France call-up

Paul Willemse (Getty Images)
Paul Willemse (Getty Images)

Paris - South African lock Paul Willemse and Fijian winger Alivereti Raka were thwarted in their attempts to be included in France's November Test squad on Wednesday after they were told they needed to wait until they have their French passports in their hands.

Raka, 25, has been on Clermont's books for three years while fellow 25-year-old Willemse plays for Montpellier after starting his provincial career with the Lions and Bulls in his native South Africa.

Both men have applied for French nationality but until all the formalities are completed, then their hopes of pushing for a possible place at the 2019 World Cup have been put on hold.

They had hoped to have their new passports sanctioned earlier this week.

"To make the request (to become a citizen) already shows that you have the will to be French - it is a good thing. But if you do not have the passport, you are not French," French rugby federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte told AFP after coach Jacques Brunel had announced his squad.

Former national coach Laporte had objected to foreign-born players being integrated into the French team after he became federation chief in 2016.

However, he backtracked in May, opening the door for the likes of Raka and Willemse to follow in the footsteps of South Africans Pieter de Villiers and Brian Liebenberg who represented France when he was coach between 2000 and 2007.

Raka has never featured at any level for Fiji internationally, while Willemse played for South Africa's Under-20 side in their victorious 2012 Junior World Championship campaign.

France will tackle South Africa (November 10), Argentina (November 17) and Fiji (November 24) in their year-end Tests.

France squad

Forwards (17): Jefferson Poirot (Bordeaux-Bgles), Danny Priso (La Rochelle), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon/cap.), Camille Chat (Racing 92), Julien Marchand (Toulouse), Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), Demba Bamba (Brive), Cedate Gomes Sa (Racing 92), Yoann Maestri (Stade Franais), Sebastien Vahaamahina (Clermont), Paul Gabrillagues (Stade Franais), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92), Bernard le Roux (Racing 92), Louis Picamoles (Montpellier), Arthur Iturria (Clermont), Mathieu Babillot (Castres), Kelian Galletier (Montpellier)

Backs (14): Morgan Parra (Clermont), Antoine Dupont (Toulouse), Baptiste Serin (Bordeaux-Bgles), Camille Lopez (Clermont), Anthony Belleau (Toulon), Geoffrey Doumayrou (La Rochelle), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Gael Fickou (Stade Franais), Remi Lamerat (Clermont), Damian Penaud (Clermont), Teddy Thomas (Racing 92), Maxime Mdard (Toulouse), Benjamin Fall (Montpellier)

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Rebels 12
Brumbies 5
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England 92/4 (28 ov)
Pakistan 326
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England 92/4 (28 ov)
Pakistan 326
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