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Magicians, bruisers and the world’s best player – meet the French stars looking to upset the Irish

Scrum-half Antoine Dupont (left) is the key man for France. Image: Sportsfile.© SPORTSFILE


Ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster Six Nations clash, Will Slattery takes a closer look at the French team that will take on Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

15 - Thomas Ramos (aged 27, 21 caps)

One of the key selection debates for France was whether to go with Ramos or his Toulouse club-mate Melvyn Jaminet, who was the starter during last year’s Grand Slam. Both are stellar goal-kickers, and Ramos will be under pressure to deliver on Saturday.

14 –Damian Penaud (26, 38 caps)

The Clermont flyer is very much a throwback to the devastating French attackers of old. He has been in scintillating try-scoring form across France's impressive 14-match winning streak, notching 11 five-pointers.

13 - Gael Fickou (28, 75 caps)

A world-class operator, Fickou is one of the French leaders defensively and a proper superstar. Earned his first cap during the 2013 Six Nations, so even at just 28, the Racing 92 centre has 37 more caps than the next most experienced player in the first XV.

12 - Yoram Moefana (22, 12 caps)

The Bordeaux centre has a massive void to fill with the absence of La Rochelle's Jonathan Danty. Moefana, who was born in the French territory of Futuna in the South Pacific, is someone who needs a big performance after a subdued outing against Italy last weekend.

11 –Ethan Dumortier (21, one cap)

Although the debutant got on the score-sheet against Italy last weekend, Brian O'Driscoll pointed out in the aftermath that the Lyon flyer was an often passive observer in his opening Test. Conor Murray is sure to test his aerial ability early on.

10 - Romain Ntamack (23, 32 caps)

The talented son of French legend Emile, the Toulouse ten has so far held off Mathieu Jalibert to keep his spot at out-half but he may come under pressure if he can't lead France to a win in Dublin.

9 - Antoine Dupont (26, 43 international caps)

The world's greatest player - and someone who Ireland have had mixed success in subduing. Leinster and Munster fared better last year than the national team, and if last weekend is anything to go by, the Toulouse nine is keen to make this World Cup year his own.

1 - Cyril Baille (29, 39 caps)

One of the world's best looseheads, the Toulouse man has sometimes struggled with injuries but when he is fit, he is as important to France as Andrew Porter is to Ireland.

2 - Julien Marchand (27, 25 caps)

Despite a strong reputation, Marchand comes into this game under pressure to perform after a disappointing display against Italy. His all-round game compares well with the top hookers in the world.

3 - Uini Atonio (32, 48 caps)

The 145kg behemoth moved to France in 2011 from New Zealand, and has been a cornerstone of the La Rochelle scrum ever since. Ronan O'Gara has done great work with making Atonio a more effective, slimmed down version of himself.

4 - Paul Willemse (30, 25 caps)

The former South African U-20 international made the move to Grenoble in France in 2014 after spells with the Bulls and Lions, and has been a key man at Montpellier since 2015. The 125kg heft he adds behind Atonio in the scrum will be a major test for Ireland.

5 - Thibaud Flament (25, 12 caps)

The lock has been one of France's breakout stars in the last year, and comes from an unusual background. Flament grew up in Belgium, went to college in Loughborough University in the UK before spending a season playing for Wasps. He has since become a regular in the Toulouse team.

6 - Anthony Jelonch (24, 23 caps)

Jelonch was a Top 14 winner with Castres before making the big move to Toulouse in 2021. He doesn't offer the same carrying threat as his back-row colleagues but his physicality will play a big role.

7 - Charles Ollivon (29, 29 caps)

The Toulon flanker was announced as Fabien Galthié's first French captain in 2020 and after a prominent early role, injury saw him miss out on last year's Grand Slam. The rangy openside is back fit and is a real threat all over the pitch.

8 - Gregory Alldritt (25, 35 caps)

The La Rochelle back-row was eligible to represent both Scotland and Ireland through his father but decided to make the No 8 jersey his own in France instead. His personal duel with Caelan Doris pits two of the in-form players in the world against each other.


16 – Gaetan Barlot (25, 5 caps)

The inexperienced Castres hooker is on the bench due to the injury to Toulouse star Peato Mauvaka, and don’t be surprised if Fabien Galthié relies on Marchand for the majority of the contest.

17 – Reda Wardi (27, 3 caps)

Wardi is one of French rugby’s most improved players, nailing down a starting spot with La Rochelle this season and making his international debut only in November. A whirlwind rise, but a major test for him against Ireland.

18 – Sipili Falatea (25, 8 caps)

One of the more unique stories in the history of international rugby comes here – replacement prop Falatea is actually inside centre Yoram Moefana’s uncle.

19 – Romain Taofifénua (32, 39 caps)

A big lock with soft hands, Lyon man Taofifénua’s offload in the build-up to France’s fourth try last weekend was a delight.

20 – Francois Cros (28, 16 caps)

Arguably the hardest hitter in the France side, the Toulouse flanker started in the Grand Slam campaign in place of the injured Ollivon and was a consistent performer.

21 – Sekou Macalou (27, 12 caps)

The Stade Francais flanker has size, power and pace – which is probably why he filled in on the wing during the November win over South Africa. A real threat off the bench.

22 – Baptiste Couilloud (25, 11 caps)

The goal-kicking Lyon nine is back in the squad in place of uncapped Racing 92 scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec.

23 – Matiheu Jalibert (24, 21 caps)

Infamously endured a nightmare outing on his debut against Ireland as a teenager in 2018, Jalibert has recovered well and is now a live threat to start at out-half at the World Cup.

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