France gamble with seven rookies

Coach Guy Novès has named seven debutants in France's match 23 for their Six Nations opener against Italy in Paris on Saturday.

In a bold move, considering it's his first game of charge of Les Bleus, Novès has drafted the uncapped Jonathan Danty (centre), Virimi Vakatawa (wing), Sébastien Bezy (scrumhalf) and Paul Jedrasiak (lock) into the starting lineup, while only retaining five players from the team thrashed by the All Blacks in their World Cup quarter-final. 

Fiji-born Vakatawa became eligible to play for France in 2013 and decided to represent his adopted nation in sevens. And following impressive performances at the Dubai and Cape Town Sevens respectively, the 23-year-old earned a call-up to the Six Nations squad. 

Camille Chat, Jefferson Poirot and Yacouba Camara are the three other players in line to make their Test debuts if they are required off the bench.

Having taken over from long-standing captain Thierry Dusautoir, who announced his retirement from Test rugby after the World Cup, hooker Guilhem Guirado will lead Les Bleus for the first time.

France – 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Hugo Bonneval, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Sébastien Bezy, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Eddy Ben Arous. Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Uini Atonio, 18 Jefferson Poirot, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Yacouba Camara, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Maxime Mermoz.

Photo: Francois Nel/Getty Images

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Mariette Adams