Gregory Alldritt will captain France in the Six Nations with regular skipper Antoine Dupont away on Olympic sevens duty, as the squad was announced on Wednesday.
Aldritt faces a tough challenge in his first match as captain fronting up against last season’s Grand Slam winners Ireland in Marseille on 2 February.
La Rochelle’s powerful No 8 Alldritt, 26, has been a pivotal figure in the team since Fabien Galthie took over as head coach in December 2019.
The 26-year-old pipped flanker Charles Ollivon to the role, after the Toulon back-rower had been the regular stand-in during Dupont’s previous absences.
Alldritt took a two-month spell away from the game after France’s disappointing Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to South Africa in October in Paris before returning for his club in late December.
Dupont, 27, will take part in three legs of the world sevens tour, in Vancouver in February, Los Angeles in March and Madrid at the end of May before the Paris Olympic Games, which start in July.
Galthie has named six uncapped played including giant New Zealand-born lock Emmanuel Meafou as well as Racing 92’s Nolann Le Garrec who will compete with Maxime Lucu for the starting scrum-half spot.
Meafou 25, who weighs an imposing 145kg (22 stone), is eligible for France having joined Toulouse in December 2018, and is likely to make his Test debut against Ireland.
Le Garrec, 21, was an unused substitute during last season’s Six Nations and has been in impressive form for his club this season.
The other new faces are Racing half-back Antoine Gibert, Toulon team-mates in back-rower Esteban Abadie and lock Matthias Halagahu as well as young Bordeaux-Begles centre Nicolas Depoortere.
Stade Francais lock Paul Gabrillagues receives his first call-up since the 2019 World Cup.
Among the main players missing due to injury are fly-half Romain Ntamack, lock Thibaud Flament and hooker Pierre Bourgarit.
The likes of flanker Sekou Macalou, playmaker Antoine Hastoy and winger Gabin Villiere are omitted by Galthie despite being part of last year’s World Cup campaign.
Backs: Thomas Ramos, Melvyn Jaminet; Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Damian Penaud, Matthis Lebel; Gael Fickou, Yoram Moefana, Jonathan Danty, Nicolas Depoortere, Emilien Gailleton; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Gibert; Maxime Lucu, Nolann Le Garrec
Forwards: Gregory Alldritt (c), Esteban Abadie, Paul Boudehent, Francois Cros, Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon; Paul Gabrillagues, Matthias Halagahu, Emmanuel Meafou, Romain Taofifenua, Cameron Woki; Dorian Aldegheri, Uini Atonio, Thomas Laclayat; Julien Marchand, Peato Mauvaka, Gaetan Barlot; Cyril Baille, Sebastien Taofifenua, Reda Wardi
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Christian Liewig – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images