JOE WORSLEY’S GUIDE TO FRANCE: Damian Penaud and Teddy Thomas can shine in broken play

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France will host England in the opening match of their 2020 Six Nations campaign


France will head out for their opening 2020 Six Nations clash at home to England with a squad brimming with youth and inexperience as they welcome in a new era.

Bordeaux pair Anthony Bouthier and Mohamed Haouas will make their debuts, while Charles Ollivon will serve as captain for the first time and 21-year-old Romain Ntamack is at fly-half.

Former England international Joe Worsley, currently a coach at Top 14 club Castres, gives his rundown of the starting XV that will await England in Paris. 

France will host England in the opening match of their 2020 Six Nations campaign

15 – Anthony BOUTHIER

Solid across the board but this is his first year in the Top 14. He’s played very well, but this selection is more a sign of France searching around for a full-back and trying people out.

Anthony Bouthier will make his France debut against England as the full-back search goes on

Anthony Bouthier will make his France debut against England as the full-back search goes on

14 – Teddy THOMAS 

Doesn’t have a kicking game, can be a bit lazy and can make tactical errors. However, give him the ball and create a 1-on-1 and he’s someone who can break the line nearly every time. He will create opportunities. 

13 Virimi VAKATAWA 

A phenomenal player. A few years ago we were talking about recruiting him when I was at Bordeaux. Now he is one of the in-form, best players in the Top 14 and one of the big dangers to England.  

Racing 92 centre Virimi Vakatawa is in phenomenal form and will be a crucial player

Racing 92 centre Virimi Vakatawa is in phenomenal form and will be a crucial player

12 – Gael FICKOU 

Can score from anywhere but he’s not a 12 really. Unlike England, they haven’t got a 10 and 12 who can distribute the ball – by selecting him they’re going more for individual talent than a team gameplan. 

11 – Damian PENAUD 

His aerial ability is very, very good, and he can break tackles and create something from nothing. Give him a broken field situation and he’s deadly. The problem is, again, he can make errors. 

On the wing, Damian Penaud is able to conjure magic but is also susceptible to errors

On the wing, Damian Penaud is able to conjure magic but is also susceptible to errors

10 – Romain NTAMACK 

Obviously a phenomenal talent, who can create something from fast ball or broken field situations. That’s why this backline is so dangerous. But he’s not an out-and-out international No 10 yet. 

9 – Antoine DUPONT 

Another deadly talent. An incredible runner – incredibly strong in contact and very quick. Often thinking: ‘Can I make a break? No? Okay I’ll pass it’. As opposed to: ‘Pass, pass, pass. If the break is on I’m going.’ 

Having established himself as first-choice scrum-half, Antoine Dupont will be a big danger

Having established himself as first-choice scrum-half, Antoine Dupont will be a big danger

8 – Gregory ALLDRITT 

Tackles ok, rucks ok, work rate is ok – it’s his ball carrying that brings him into the squad. If he carries well, they have that wealth of talent behind to release. So his performance will be very important. 

7 – Charles OLLIVON 

As a lineout forward he’s very good and obviously he’s the captain. But I’m still to be stunned by him really. He’s good but at international level, is he physical enough? I’m not sure. 

6 – Francois CROS 

Somebody I noticed a few years ago and thought was a fantastic little player. He’s really good over the ball, has a massive engine, tackles well, can carry and link play – a classic openside. 

5 – Paul WILLEMSE 

Between Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury but a bit bigger! He’s a worker – smashing rucks, smashing mauls, scrummaging, and he can carry. 

South African-born second row Paul Willemse has a very strong all-round game

South African-born second row Paul Willemse has a very strong all-round game

4 – Bernard LE ROUX 

A bit of a hybrid between a back row and a second row. He has a massive engine, is very intelligent and can carry well. He and Willemse work like dogs. 

3 – Mohamed HAOUAS 

A bit off the radar. I’m surprised they picked him ahead of Demba Bamba. I remember him playing a few times last year – I wasn’t amazed by him but he was young and developing. 

2 – Julien MARCHAND 

This front row is completely untested at this level. It’s quite a ballsy pick. Obviously Camille Chat would be No 1 choice but Marchand is very well respected and a good leader. 

1 – Cyril BAILLE 

Again, surprised they picked him ahead of Jefferson Poirot, who’s been a regular and brings a real hard edge to the team. But scrummaging is why and Baille is very well respected at Toulouse. 

Front row forward Cyril Baille is a surprise selection to start for France in Paris on Sunday

Front row forward Cyril Baille is a surprise selection to start for France in Paris on Sunday

Coach – Fabien GALTHIE 

We got to know each other as players, but I’ve never worked with him. I’ve heard he’s very good technically but that he can cause problems. Accusations I’ve heard thrown at him are that he can be derogatory, hypocritical and that working with him all year round is a real issue. If any pressure comes on it can blow up but everyone knows what he’s like. 

It’s international rugby – where skin is a lot thicker – so I imagine it shouldn’t be a big problem. If things get loose, this is a team that could tear you a new one! They have some real talent in the backline and in the forwards who can create opportunities. the problem is international rugby doesn’t give you many of those!

Newly-appointed France coach Fabien Galthie can be a very intense operator

Newly-appointed France coach Fabien Galthie can be a very intense operator 

 



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