SA-born lock Paul Willemse has been included in France coach Fabien Galthie’s 42-man training camp group for the Rugby World Cup.
Galthie will reduce the squad to 33 on 21 August for the sport’s quadrennial showpiece, which runs from 8 September to 28 October, but he has offered a glimmer of hope to others like veteran fullback Brice Dulin who have been rarely used in the past two years.
The 33-year-old won the last of his 36 caps in March 2021 but earned a call-up to the hosts squad due to an outstanding season for Champions Cup winners La Rochelle. He is one of nine players from La Rochelle to feature.
Scrumhalf Baptiste Serin and centre Arthur Vincent, who has had two nightmare injury-plagued seasons, will hope to impress in training camp and get a chance to shine in some of the four warm-up matches.
Galthie has remained loyal to the squad that secured the 2022 Six Nations Grand Slam last year and finished runners-up last season.
However, the former France captain has selected four uncapped players: centre Emilien Gailleton, wing Louis Bielle-Biarrey, backrow forward Paul Boudehent and prop Thomas Laclayat
Laclayat is the surprise amongst the quartet as he played second tier rugby last season with now-promoted Oyonnax.
Toulouse’s dynamic half-back partnership of France captain Antoine Dupont and flyhalf Romain Ntamack head up a 10-player group from the recently-crowned French champions.
For some of those not called up there remains some hope – loose forward Anthony Jelonch, who is recuperating after a cruciate ligament operation, prop Sipili Falatea or Australian lock Emmanuel Meafou, who is awaiting World Rugby’s decision on whether to grant him his request to be considered a naturalised Frenchman.
One player certainly not under consideration is prop Mohamed Haouas, whose conviction for marital abuse prompted Galthie to tell him he was persona non grata.
Forwards: Uini Atonio, Cyril Baille, Reda Wardi, Thomas Laclayat, Demba Bamba, Dorian Aldegheri, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Julien Marchand, Pierre Bourgarit, Peato Mauvaka, Thibaud Flament, Paul Willemse, Romain Taofifenua, Cameron Woki, Bastien Chalureau, Florian Verhaeghe, Gregory Alldritt, Paul Boudehent, Francois Cros, Sekou Macalou, Charles Ollivon, Dylan Cretin, Yoan Tanga. Backs: Antoine Dupont, Maxime Lucu, Baptiste Couilloud, Baptiste Serin, Antoine Hastoy, Romain Ntamack, Matthieu Jalibert, Damian Penaud, Gabin Villiere, Ethan Dumortier, Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Emilien Gailleton, Arthur Vincent, Yoram Moefana, Thomas Ramos, Melvyn Jaminet, Brice Dulin.
© Agence France-Presse