The Roar
The Roar


Meafou's time: Giant Aussie's rise from overlooked NRC prodigy to France's next big thing, new captains for England and Ireland

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17th January, 2024
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Five years after running out for Darren Coleman’s NSW Country in the NRC, Emmanuel Meafou is set to become Les Bleus’ latest international after being selected in Fabien Galthie’s Six Nations squad.

The giant 145kg, 202cm lock, who was born in New Zealand but raised in Australia and was unable to get a contract in Super Rugby, has been one of the Top 14’s stars in recent years after becoming a revelation at Toulouse alongside regular French captain Antoine Dupont and Wallaby Richie Arnold.

Meafou, 25, turned down advances from Eddie Jones almost 12 months ago to make himself available for the Wallabies’ World Cup campaign as he set his sights on running out for his adopted nation.

Galthie tried to fast-track his selection for the World Cup last year but he did not qualify for his adopted nation until after the tournament.

Emmanuel Meafou is set to make his debut for Toulouse. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Alongside World Cup Wallabies captain Will Skelton, Meafou has become the most destructive lock in France and he is poised to start against Ireland next month in their Six Nations opener at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.

“He’s huge. The sky’s the limit for a guy like him,” Skelton said of Meafou in a recent interview with Rugby Rama.

“When I see everything he can do with the ball, his work in defence and in the rucks, his way of breaking mauls…”


Meafou is one of six fresh faces from the squad that suffered World Cup agony by going down to South Africa by a point in last year’s quarter-final in Paris.

Gregory Alldritt will captain France, the experienced La Rochelle No.8 taking over from Dupont, who is unavailable as he sets his sight on winning gold at the Paris Olympics in rugby sevens.

Borthwick confirms new skipper as new era ushered through

Experienced England hooker Jamie George has been named as the new England skipper as coach Steve Borthwick included seven uncapped players in his 36-man squad for the Six Nations, which begins for his team on February 4 away to Italy.

He’s one of the few players absolutely assured of his place as England undergo a period of transition after regular captain Owen Farrell’s decision to stand down from international rugby and the usual post-World Cup turnover.

Australia's Nic White (left) tackles England's Jamie George (right) as he almost scores a try during the Autumn International match at Twickenham Stadium, London. Picture date: Saturday November 13, 2021. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Jamie George has been confirmed as England’s new captain.(Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

The uncapped players are Immanuel Feyi-Waboso (Exeter), Chandler Cunningham-South (Harlequins), Ethan Roots (Exeter Chiefs), Oscar Beard (Harlequins), Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints), Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks) and Fin Smith (Northampton Saints).


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Prop Kyle Sinckler, reported to be on the brink of securing a move to French club Toulon, and No.8 Billy Vunipola, are notable absentees, with Borthwick saying he had spoken to both about what they needed to do to get back into contention.

Munster back-rower takes over from Sexton

Veteran Munster backrow O’Mahony leads Ireland’s push as coach Andy Farrell began the post-Johnny Sexton era by naming an experienced 34-man squad to defend their European title.

O’Mahony, 34, has captained Ireland 10 times before, having led Ireland at under-age levels before winning his first of his 101 caps. He also captained the British & Irish Lions in the opening Test of the 2017 tour to New Zealand.

O’Mahony got the armband ahead of new Leinster co-captains Garry Ringrose and James Ryan, who were included in the squad.

“Ever since I was a boy starting off in the game, I have always dreamed of captaining Ireland,” O’Mahony said.


Australian Finlay Bealham is in the squad but Mack Hansen, his Canberra colleague, is ruled out with injury.

England: Forwards: Ollie Chessum, Dan Cole, Alex Coles, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Chandler Cunningham-South, Ben Curry, Theo Dan, Alex Dombrandt, Ben Earl, Ellis Genge, Jamie George (capt), Joe Heyes, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, Joe Marler, Beno Obano, Tom Pearson, Ethan Roots, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill.
Backs: Oscar Beard, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Fraser Dingwall, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, George Ford, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, Ollie Lawrence, Alex Mitchell, Tom Roebuck, Henry Slade, Fin Smith, Marcus Smith, Ben Spencer, Freddie Steward.

Ireland: Forwards: Ryan Baird, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Ronan Kelleher, Jeremy Loughman, Joe McCarthy, Peter O’Mahony (c), Tom O’Toole, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Dan Sheehan, Tom Stewart, Nick Timoney, Josh van der Flier.
Backs: Bundee Aki, Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Ciaran Frawley, Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw, Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, James Lowe, Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray, Calvin Nash, Garry Ringrose, Jacob Stockdale.

France: Forwards: Esteban Abadie, Dorian Aldegheri, Gregory Alldritt, Uini Atonio, Cyril Baille, Gaetan Barlot, Paul Boudehent, Francois Cros, Paul Gabrillagues, Matthias Halagahu, Anthony Jelonch, Thomas Laclayat, Julien Marchand, Peato Mauvaka, Emmanuel Meafou, Charles Ollivon, Romain Taofifenua, Sebastien Taofifenua, Reda Wardi, Cameron Woki
Backs: Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Jonathan Danty, Nicolas Depoortere, Gael Fickou, Emilien Gailleton, Antoine Gibert, Matthieu Jalibert, Melvyn Jaminet, Nolann Le Garrec, Matthis Lebel, Maxime Lucu, Yoram Moefana, Damian Penaud, Thomas Ramos.