6N: Two new faces debut for France vs. England in opener
PARIS (AP) — France will field new caps Anthony Bouthier at fullback and his Montpellier clubmate Mohamed Haouas at prop against Six Nations favorite England on Sunday in Paris.
Hooker Julien Marchand earned only his third test on Thursday in an enforced change given the absence of the injured Camille Chat.
Although Bouthier replaces veteran Maxime Médard, and the explosive yet inconsistent right winger Teddy Thomas takes Yoann Huget's place, coach Fabien Galthié has kept faith with the other backs who did well at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The burly Damian Penaud is at left wing, with Virimi Vakatawa alongside Gaël Fickou in a strong looking midfield. Flyhalf Romain Ntamack will pull the strings with scrumhalf Antoine Dupont.
Uncapped back-rowers Cameron Woki and Boris Palu are on the bench alongside experienced prop Jefferson Poirot, who is expected to come on against World Cup runner-up England at Stade de France.
Flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert, whose international debut was curtailed by a serious knee injury against Ireland two years ago, returns to join the reserves. Scrumhalf Baptiste Serin provides strong cover.
Galthié has given the team and the coaching staff a massive revamp after officially taking over the ineffective Jacques Brunel following the World Cup, where he was one of Brunel's assistants. France narrowly lost to Wales in a tense quarterfinal.
Galthié, a former standout scrumhalf who won 64 test caps with Les Tricolors, has shown several thirtysomethings the door. Captain Guilhem Guiardo retired and was replaced by back-rower Charles Ollivon.
With seven backroom staff on board, the workload has significantly increased on a France side which has chronically lacked endurance and sharpness in recent years.
France: Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gaël Fickou, Damian Penaud, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Grégory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon (captain), François Cros, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Mohamed Haouas, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille. Reserves: Peato Mauvaka, Jefferson Poirot, Demba Bemba, Boris Palu, Cameron Woki, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert, Vincent Rattez.
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