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France name World Cup squad with Picamoles and Penaud set to dazzle

Louis Picamoles - France

France head coach Jacques Brunel has said the August form of Louis Picamoles was convincing enough to dispel concerns over his below-par Six Nations.

The veteran no.8 was one of a number of senior personnel criticised for France’s disastrous start to 2019, as Les Bleus lost to Wales, England and Ireland while scraping past Italy.

Picamoles will compete for the starting spot in Japan with La Rochelle’s Gregory Alldritt, who has emerged on the Test rugby scene after impressing on debut at the start of the year.

Alldritt’s mobility offers something different to Picamoles brute physicality, and that is a theme which continues in the pack with Brunel also opting for speedy prop Cyril Baille and former Bayonne star Charles Ollivon, now with Toulon.

Where England may been rumoured to be experimenting with George Ford as cover for their scrum-halves, France will have goal-kicking no.9 Baptiste Serin spot for Romain Ntamack and Camille Lopez.

Serin, who left Bordeaux-Begles for Toulon this summer, will be the third-choice across the half-back group as Antoine Dupont and Maxime Machenaud after included in a 31-man squad split 17-14 between forwards and backs.

France showed signs of improvement as a whole during their World Cup warm-up schedule, dominating Italy and Scotland on home soil and just losing out to Scotland 17-14 at the weekend.

“We picked (Picamoles) after several nice performances and because of his experience,” Brunel said.

“We also picked a player who can play third and second row in Arthur Iturria.”

“This squad is a good mix of youth and experience, it’s a good balance. The Pool is tough but we hope to get very very far in this tournament,” added Brunel, who included five half-backs in his squad – scrum-halves Baptiste Serin, Antoine Dupont and Maxime Machenaud and fly-halves Camille Lopez and Romain Ntamack.

“With five halfbacks we’re ready for every possibility,” Brunel explained.

Three-time Rugby World Cup runners-up France begin their campaign against Argentina in Tokyo on September 21, and also face 2003 champion England, the United States and Tonga in Pool C.

France’s 31-man squad to play at the Rugby World Cup in Japan

Forwards: Jefferson Poirot (Bordeaux-Bgles), Rabah Slimani (Clermont), Demba Bamba (Lyon), Emerick Setiano (Toulon), Cyril Baille (Toulouse), Guilhem Guirado (Montpellier, capt), Camille Chat (Racing 92), Peato Mauvaka (Toulouse), Sebastien Vahaamahina (Clermont), Paul Gabrillagues (Stade Franais), Arthur Iturria (Clermont), Bernard Le Roux (Racing 92), Gregory Alldritt (La Rochelle), Charles Ollivon (Toulon), Louis Picamoles (Montpellier), Yacouba Camara (Montpellier), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92).

Backs: Antoine Dupont (Toulouse), Baptiste Serin (Toulon), Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92), Camille Lopez (Clermont), Romain Ntamack (Toulouse), Gael Fickou (Stade Franais), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Sofiane Guitoune (Toulouse), Virimi Vakatawa (Racing 92), Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Alivereti Raka (Clermont), Damian Penaud (Clermont), Maxime Medard (Toulouse), Thomas Ramos (Toulouse)

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