France go heavy on forwards

France coach Philippe Saint-André has taken a conservative line as he tries to win back French pride in the Six Nations, which kicks off on 1 February.

He has cut from his training squad all but one of the four young uncapped players initially called up, and is leaning heavily on his forwards for the opening match, against England in Paris. Only flank Antoine Burban survives to make a possible debut. Gone are flyhalf Jules Plisson and fullbacks Hugo Bonneval and Geoffrey Palis.

Saint-André has made six changes to the 23 which lost 19-10 to South Africa in the November Test, mostly injury-enforced, but he has once again found faith in South African-born Bernard le Roux, who made his debut in New Zealand in June.

The coach has named just nine backs in his squad of 23, hoping that versatility will cover any injuries. Rémi Talès is the only specialist flyhalf, but No 9 Jean-Marc Doussain could step up if needed. Maxime Médard returns as a utility back covering fullback and wing. In last year's competition France won just one match, against Scotland, to end with the wooden spoon.

France squad:

Forwards: Thomas Domingo (Clermont), Yannick Forestier (Castres), Benjamin Kayser (Clermont), Dimitri Szarzewski (Racing-Métro), Nicolas Mas (Montpellier), Rabah Slimani (Stade Français), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Français), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Pascal Papé (Stade Français, c), Bernard le Roux (Racing-Métro), Antoine Burban (Stade Français), Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse), Damien Chouly (Clermont), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse).

Backs: Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse), Maxime Machenaud (Racing-Métro), Rémi Talès (Castres), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Gaël Fickou (Toulouse), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Yoann Huget (Toulouse, Maxime Médard (Toulouse), Brice Dulin (Castres).

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