World Cup player profiles: France

Date published: September 11 2015

Ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we take a look at all of the players set to feature in England. Next up, France.

Forwards:  Uini Atonio, Eddy Ben Arous, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado, Benjamin Kayser, Dimitri Szarzewski, Alexandre Flanquart, Yoann Maestri, Pascal Papé, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Bernard Le Roux, Yannick Nyanga, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Damien Chouly, Louis Picamoles.

Backs:  Rory Kockott, Morgan Parra, Sébastien Tillous-Borde, Frédéric Michalak, Rémi Talès, Mathieu Bastareaud, Alexandre Dumoulin, Gaël Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin, Sofiane Guitoune, Yoann Huget, Noa Nakaitaci, Scott Spedding.


Loosehead prop    1.83m    117kg    25.08.1990

A product of the Racing 92 academy, Eddy Ben Arous first broke through for France in 2013, making his debut on a tour to New Zealand. Incredibly mobile around the park, his scrummaging held him back and saw him drop down the pecking order at Test level. However some good performances at club level saw him recalled for the 2015 Six Nations where he was one of the revelations of the tournament, both scrummaging and acting as an extra back-row at the breakdown.


Tighthead prop    1.97m    155kg    26.03.1990

Born in New Zealand of Samoan origin, Uini Atonio became eligible for France in 2014, making his debut in the November Tests. A giant of a man, he qualified for les Bleus after joining La Rochelle, where he is now club captain. Despite his size, he makes a huge impact in the loose, and was often used in the Six Nations as an impact substitute by Philippe Saint-André.


Centre    1.83m        120kg    17.09.1988

A unique physical presence in the French midfield, Mathieu Bastareaud made his debut for les Bleus back in 2009 at the tender age of 20. It hasn't all been plain sailing since, with an off-field incident in New Zealand earning him a three-month ban from the national team, while he fell out of favour with Marc Lièvremont and missed the last World Cup. A move to Toulon has seen him grow as a player, winning three European titles and a Top 14 crown.


Scrum-half    1.76m    76kg    29.04.1985

Sébastien Tillous-Borde's international career can be separated into two parts, his initial breakthrough in 2008-9 and his return in 2014. In between his lack of goal-kicking saw him ignored, but a move to Toulon, with whom he has won three successive European titles, has allowed him to re-establish himself with les Bleus. A powerful sniping threat, Tillous-Borde is another natural leader at scrum-half.


Back row    1.92m    111kg    27.11.1985

A late bloomer at Test level, Damien Chouly slowly started to establish himself as first choice with les Bleus in 2013. Now captain of Top 14 giants Clermont Auvergne, Chouly can play both at number eight or at blindside flanker and was part of the French team that won the World U21 Championship back in 2006. He made his Test debut a year later on a tour to New Zealand.


Loosehead prop    1.90m    128kg    02.10.1981

Belgian-born loosehead prop Vincent Debaty has enjoyed a career resurgence in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup, having looked to be finished at international level. Known for his impact off the bench, Debaty's ability in the set-piece has made him a specialist replacement for much of his career, but some intense fitness work at the end of 2014 allowed him to break back into the French team, even scoring the Six Nations try of the tournament against England in 2015.


Full-back    1.78m    81kg    23.04.1990

One of the success stories of the Philippe Saint-André era, Brice Dulin quickly established himself as first choice for les Bleus after breaking through on the June tour of Argentina in 2012. A devastating counter-attacker, Dulin is lethal in space, but struggled with injuries at the end of 2014 and had to settle for a bit-part role during the following Six Nations.


Centre    1.90m     104kg     24.08.1989

Injuries have held Dumoulin back at the highest level but in 2014 he was finally able to string together a series of games for Racing 92, earning a Test call-up as a result. Reminiscent of Yannick Jauzion both in his running style and ability to bring other players into the game, he started out as a fly-half. He made his international debut in November 2014 against Fiji, but an Achilles problem hampered the second half of his season. He is the son of former France international Marc Cécillon.


Back row     1.88m    100kg     18.11.1981

A star of both the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, France skipper Thierry Dusautoir always seems to raise his game on the biggest stage. Voted World Player of the Year in 2011 after les Bleus came agonisingly close to beating New Zealand in the final, Dusautoir scored France's only try that day, four years after his try helped knock the All Blacks out in Cardiff. As good a tackler as there is in the game, Dusautoir is also the heartbeat of the French team.


Centre     1.91m    99kg    26.03.1994

One of the brightest hopes in French rugby, Gaël Fickou made his Test debut at the age of just 18 back in 2013. A regular for Toulouse, Fickou is a devastating runner in midfield and took advantage of some injuries to become a starter by the end of the 2015 Six Nations. A knee injury saw him miss the end of the club season for Toulouse but he was fit enough to make the World Cup squad.


Second row     2.04m    102kg    09.10.1989

 Part of the Stade Français team that won a first Top 14 title in eight years in 2015, Alexandre Flanquart is an athletic second row who provides a lot of height in the lineout. More physical than when he first broke through at Test level in 2013, Flanquart established himself as first choice for les Bleus by the end of the 2015 Six Nations.


Centre    1.82m    93kg    20.01.1988

The most consistent member of the French squad since Philippe Saint-André took over in 2012, Wesley Fofana is an elegant runner with incredible balance in the centres. A prolific try-scorer, he crossed in each of his first four Tests, while in 2013 he scored one of the great individual tries at Twickenham against England. An injury-hampered campaign held him back in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup.


Hooker    1.83m    105kg    17.06.1986

In one of the most competitive positions in the French squad, Guilhem Guirado has stood out and become first choice for les Bleus. A move from Perpignan to Toulon seems to have had a hugely beneficial impact and he now stands out as one of the top hookers in Europe. Hugely mobile around the park, his lineout throwing has also improved since he broke through back in 2008.


Winger/Full-back     1.84m    86kg    27.03.1989

One of the most exciting players in French rugby, Sofiane Guitoune is versatile enough to play across the backline, although at Test level he has been employed on the wing. A prolific campaign with Perpignan saw him called up by France in 2013, scoring a try on debut against Tonga. He then tore his ACL but on his return to fitness he was recalled for the 2015 Six Nations where he started against Wales.


Winger/Full-back    1.90m    97kg    02.06.1987

There have been few more consistent performers for France under Philippe Saint-André than Yoann Huget, the Toulouse winger who can also fill in at full-back. While his try-scoring is not as prolific as predecessor Vincent Clerc, Huget has shown his ability to constantly create danger and get involved. He withdrew from the squad at the last World Cup because of three missed drugs tests.


Hooker    1.83m    112kg    26.07.1984

One of the most well-travelled members of the French squad, hooker Benjamin Kayser initially came through the ranks at Stade Français before spending time at Leicester, Castres and now Clermont Auvergne. Very reliable in the set-piece, Kayser is also very active around the park and has been a constant in Philippe Saint-André's squads. He struggled at the end of the 2015 season however and was relegated to bench duty for Clermont in the Top 14 play-offs.


Scrum-half    1.80m    89kg    25.06.1986

The star performer in Castres' title-winning side in 2013, Rory Kockott became eligible for France in 2014, making his Test debut against Fiji. Born in South Africa, he spent time with the Sharks and the Lions before heading to France where he has made a real impact in the Top 14. A consistent goal-kicker, he made his first start for les Bleus against Scotland in 2015.


Back row    1.97m    116kg    04.06.1989

Another member of the South African contingent in the French squad, Bernard le Roux moved to France at the age of 20 to join Racing 92. After establishing himself as an important member of the Racing squad, thanks to his high work-rate and insatiable tackling, le Roux was called up by France for their 2013 tour to New Zealand. He has since been a regular in the starting lineup and combined well with Thierry Dusautoir during the 2015 Six Nations.


Second row    2.02m     119kg    14.01.1988

Philippe Saint-André's most used player during his time in charge of les Bleus, Yoann Maestri is one of the leading locks in the northern hemisphere game. A powerful presence in the engine room, he also offers high work-rate getting through a lot of tackles. Having initially struggled with discipline problems, including a red card for France against Tonga in 2013, he has since calmed down and become a leader for les Bleus.


Tighthead prop    1.80m    108kg    25.05.1980

The longest-serving forward in the French squad, Nicolas Mas made his Test debut all the way back in 2003. Despite lots of competition he eventually managed to securing a starting role at tighthead thanks to his strong scrummaging and he played all 80 minutes of the 2011 World Cup final. The long-time captain of Perpignan, he moved to Montpellier in 2013, while he was part of the French teams that won the 2007 and 2010 Six Nations.


Fly-half    1.82m    85kg    16.10.1982

A full 14 years after making his Test debut, Frédéric Michalak will take part in his third World Cup in 2015. The enigmatic fly-half was a surprise inclusion in the French squad after a season disrupted by a shoulder injury, but his goal-kicking saw him included. Vastly-experienced, Michalak started his career with Toulouse before spells at the Sharks in South Africa and now with French heavyweights Toulon. Capable of playing both scrum-half and fly-half, he has settled on the latter position in recent seasons.


Winger    1.90m    94kg    11.07.1990

The first Fijian-born player to represent France, Noa Nakaitaci has settled in brilliantly since joining Clermont back in 2010. Nakaitaci can play both in the centres or on the wing, and has become first choice for Clermont in the latter position. Having married a French woman and with a family in France, he chose to represent les Bleus rather than the country of his birth, and made his Test debut in 2015. He had already been involved in a tour to New Zealand back in 2013.


Back row    1.87m    96kg    19.12.1983

A veteran presence in the French back row, Yannick Nyanga burst onto the scene with his electric pace back in 2004. A precocious talent, he featured regularly for les Bleus up until the 2007 World Cup but then fell out of favour under Marc Lièvremont, only returning from a five-year absence in 2012. He has since been a regular in the French squads under Philippe Saint-André, although often missing out on a place in the matchday squads.


Flanker     1.87m    98kg    21.07.1986

An unused sub in the last World Cup final, Fulgence Ouedraogo has been a peripheral figure for les Bleus under Philippe Saint-André, with injuries playing a major role in his absences. He started all three Tests in France's clean sweep in November 2012, while he spent June 2015 with France Sevens as they tried to book their place at the 2016 Olympics.


Second row    1.95m    115kg     05.10.1980

Veteran second row Pascal Papé has been one of the key members of Philippe Saint-André's squads, and even captained les Bleus when Thierry Dusautoir was injured in 2012 and 2014. An old school lock, Papé is particularly effective in the tight as well as being a natural leader. He started the World Cup final in 2011, but in 2015 he was suspended for ten weeks in the second half of the season for a knee on Jamie Heaslip


Scrum-half     1.80m    77kg    15.11.1988

An early starter for France, Morgan Parra became the youngest Frenchman to win 50 caps back in 2013 when he was still only 24 years old. Primarily a scrum-half, he showed his versatility during the 2011 World Cup when he filled in at fly-half, even starting the final in the position until a stray knee from Richie McCaw knocked him out of the game. A real leader, his ability to manage his forwards and control the game has been apparent since he was a teenager.


Back row    1.92m    116kg    05.02.1986

One of the top ball-carriers in Europe, Louis Picamoles made his debut for France aged just 22 back in 2008. Part of the French squad at the 2011 World Cup, he had to settle for a back-up role behind Imanol Harinordoquy, but came back strong the following year under Philippe Saint-André. A debilitating virus blighted much of his 2014/15 season but he finished the season strongly to make the French World Cup squad.


Tighthead prop     1.78 m    110kg    18.10.1989

Tighthead prop has been a problem position for France, but in Rabah Slimani they have one of the most promising young props in the game. The foundation of Stade Français' title-winning side in 2015, Slimani is arguably the best scrummaging tighthead in the Top 14, while also offering a lot of mobility around the park. He hasn't quite transferred that form to the Test stage, but featured in every game of the 2015 Six Nations.


Full-back     1.88m    93kg    04.05.1986

It took a succession of injuries to Brice Dulin, Hugo Bonneval and Maxime Médard for Scott Spedding to get his chance for France, but once he did, the South African-born full-back took it. Hugely impressive on debut against Fiji in 2014, Spedding is a dangerous counter-attacker and a powerful runner with a strong boot. A former Baby Bok, he chose to represent France and has even become a French citizen since arriving back in 2008.


Hooker    1.80m    102kg    26.01.1983

A veteran member of the French squad, Dimitri Szarzewski has been regularly involved since making his debut back in 2004. Blessed with surprising pace and great handling for a front row player, he has nonetheless found himself as second choice for much of his French career, first behind Raphaël Ibanez, then William Servat and now Guilhem Guirado. The 2015 World Cup will be his third for les Bleus.


Fly-half    1.86m     90kg    02.05.1984

A late arrival on the international scene, Rémi Talès spent much of his early career playing in the French second flight before moving to Castres in 2011. His performances in helping them to the Top 14 title in 2013 saw him called up by Philippe Saint-André. Less inventive than some of his contemporaries in the role, he is generally very consistent and defensively very strong. Despite making his debut at the age of 29, he also provides real leadership.