France’s name their squad for June’s Tour of Argentina
France's Thierry Dusautoir, left, tackles Italy's Alessandro Zanni. AP Photo/Christophe Ena
We got what we asked for: youth. France’s new coach Philippe Saint-Andre was true to his word and selected an exciting and promising group for the two Test-matches against the Pumas to be played on 16 and 23 June in Cordoba and Tucuman.
PSA called nine uncapped players: props Antoine Guillamon and Yvan Watremez, 18-year old Wallisian hooker Christopher Tolofua, locks Christophe Samson and Romain Taofifenua, scrum-half Maxime Machenaud, centre Geoffrey Doumayrou, winger Romain Martial and finally full-back Brice Dulin.
Nine uncapped players who will discover a new coaching staff and a new culture during the three-week tour of Argentina.
What a way to start an international career!
In Tucuman, one of the very few rugby strongholds on the planet. Tucuman, that lives and breathes rugby. Tucuman, who IS rugby.
Nine untested players on a 28-man group, one/third. Young blood, tick.
How about last year’s rugby World Cup finalists?
Well, after another lengthy season, PSA cleverly chose to rest a few of them, and rightly so: France’s irreproachable captain Thierry Dusautoir, winger Vincent Clerc, prop Nicolas Mas or lock Julien Pierre were left at home. Good call.
These guys play 10-12 more games every year than their Southern Hemisphere counterparts. They need and deserve a break.
And stuff the few southern hemisphere nosy do-gooders who complain about European sides not bringing all their best players during the June tour. Give them a break.
What else? Stade Francais second row Pascal Papé will captain the side, while Alexandre Lapandry, Wenceslas Lauret, and Fulgence Ouedraogo are all given another chance to convince they have what it takes to succeed at international level.
Any surprises? Freddy Michalak’s selection was expected as the man is heading back to France at the end of the super rugby season (Toulon) and PSA wanted to bring some creativity to the side.
Michalak’s experience of the international scene and his versatility at either 9 or 10, are also highly regarded by the new coaching staff.
Elsewhere, utility backs Benjamin Fall and J-M Buttin will be given some game time to prove they have the French flair Les Bleus have been missing for quite some time while Wesley Fofana will aim at cementing his spot in the centres.
A few players to watch for: Yohann Maestri is the 2m+/120 kg lock French rugby has been looking for since the Roumat/Brouzet/Merle years and the 24-year old has the opportunity to become a leader of the pack.
Christopher Tolofua has huge potential at hooker and undoubtedly represents France’s future. He is 18 years old, yes 18, that’s one, eight, weighs 120 kg and has already earned a reputation after only a few Top 14 matches.
The pros? He is an enforcer a la Polota-Nau.
Cons? The kid can’t throw consistently. Not yet. But he will get better.
Romain Taofifenua is also a huge prospect: 21-year old, 2m, 130kgs, he is the son of Willy Taofifenua, the rampaging Grenoble back-row who played in the early 90s.
Taofifenua, Lakafia and Tolofua represent the new generation of young French Islanders from New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna, who until recently struggled to make it at Top 14 level although they were dominating the lower ranks.
These days are over and the youngsters will try to show they have the skills and discipline to play at international level.
JM Buttin and Maxime Machenaud are also two young, exciting players who have blossomed this year and bring unpredictability in the backline.
Plenty to look for really against a Pumas side that is also testing a new generation of players. France and Argentina have close ties in world rugby, being the two Latin cousins of the top 10.
Both nations have similar values and their philosophy revolves around one aspect of the game: ‘le défi / el desafio’.
Yes, challenging the opponent, defiantly, at scrum-time, at the ruck, when tackling… or during the Haka.
Although Australia, South-Africa and New Zealand will host some great series in June, don’t forget to look further East for what promises to be a good old slugfest.
France’s 28-man squad for June’s tests against Pumas:
Forwards (15) : David Attoub (Stade Français), Vincent Debaty (Clermont), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Français), Antoine Guillamon (Lyon OU), Christopher Tolofua (Stade Toulousain), Pascal Papé (Stade Français), Christophe Samson (Toulon), Raphaël Lakafia (Biarritz), Romain Taofifenua (Perpignan), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier), Yvan Watremez (Biarritz), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Wenceslas Lauret (Biarritz), Alexandre Lapandry (Clermont), Louis Picamoles (Stade Toulousain)
Backs (13) : Morgan Parra (Clermont), François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan), Frédéric Michalak (Sharks), Maxime Machenaud (Agen), Benjamin Fall (Racing-Métro), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Yoann Huget (Bayonne), Florian Fritz (Toulouse), Geoffrey Doumayrou (Montpellier), Brice Dulin (Agen), Romain Martial (Castres), Jean Marcellin Buttin (Clermont)
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