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France were on track to progress to the semi finals of the World Cup when a moment of madness from Vahaamahina reduced them to 14 men. Wales eventually wore them down and bundled over the decisive try to knock France out. This triggered the resignation of coach Jaques Brunel who would be known by most Six Nations fans as the coach that picks some bizarre team selections.
The French teams are flying in Europe – most notably Clermont, Toulouse and Racing 92 in the Champions cup; and Lyon and Bordeaux who lead the Top 14. Because of the wealth of talent and form that surrounds him, incoming coach Fabien Galthié has cleaned house for this tournament.
He names 19 uncapped players in his 42-man squad, meaning there is no room for Yoann Huget, Maxime Medard, Alivereti Raka and Camille Lopez, to name a few. Giant back row forward Charles Ollivon has been picked to lead this young team following Guirado’s retirement.
France have a strong pack going into the tournament. Formidable figures like Alldritt and Cros will cause havoc at the breakdown – but it’s their devastating backline options that the other nations should be most concerned by.
Antoine Dupont is perhaps the best scrum half going into this tournament. He has a great eye for a break and hates to kick the ball away needlessly. Him, and his halfback partner Romain Ntamack, will be the calm heads that will allow the back line behind them to go berserk.
Expect France to run hard this tournament. Wrecking-ball centres Fickou and Vakatawa need no introduction. Outside them, intelligent Damien Penaud (their best player last tournament) and the returning Teddy Thomas are obvious warning signs for other nations. To complete the back line, Galthié makes another bold call. Whilst he wants no repeat of the nightmare Huget had last year, he leaves out Thomas Ramos who would usually be the clear choice at 15. Instead, he has gone for the uncapped Bouthier who will need to impress against an England side with a point to prove.
The Algorithm predicts France will finish 4th. But make no mistake, this is largely due to their recent bad form and many will expect them to finish higher than this.
They are the dark horses to win the competition and, if they manage to keep up with England in Paris, they will be very hard to stop. I am very excited to see what this French team can do.