France make surprise wing choice for Ireland clash as Antoine Dupont’s replacement confirmed

Colin Newboult
Yoram Moefana with Louis Bielle-Biarrey in the background during the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Yoram Moefana with Louis Bielle-Biarrey in the background during the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

France have named their side to take on Ireland in the Six Nations, with Fabien Galthie opting to drop youngster Louis Bielle-Biarrey to the bench.

The 20-year-old was the breakout star in 2023, surging his way from outside the squad and into the first XV by the end of the Rugby World Cup.

Bielle-Biarrey started against South Africa in the quarter-finals but struggled during that clash as the eventual champions targeted him under the high ball.

Another Bordeaux-Begles man in his place

Galthie has, therefore, opted for Yoram Moefana in the back three, a player that usually features at centre.

In fact, the duo play together at Bordeaux-Begles with Moefana a consistent presence in the 12 shirt for the Top 14 club.

However, he has regularly started for Les Bleus on the left wing and the head coach has once again placed his trust in the 23-year-old.

He features alongside another Bordeaux man, Damian Penaud, and Toulouse’s Thomas Ramos in the back three against Ireland.

At centre, the outstanding partnership of Jonathan Danty and Gael Fickou continues, while in the playmaking positions, Maxime Lucu – as expected – gets the nod at scrum-half for the 2024 Six Nations.

Lucu is selected due to Antoine Dupont’s absence, with France’s linchpin concentrating on sevens ahead of the Paris Olympics.

He is joined at half-back by club team-mate Matthieu Jalibert, making it four Bordeaux players in the starting backline.

They don’t have any representation up front, however, as La Rochelle’s Gregory Alldritt captains the side and is alongside Toulon’s Charles Ollivon and Toulouse’s Francois Cros in the back-row.

Montpellier’s Paul Willemse is back in the XV after missing the World Cup through injury and is joined at lock by Stade Francais’ Paul Gabrillagues, who makes his first France appearance since the 2019 global tournament.

Finally, in the front-row, Uini Atonio (La Rochelle) and Cyril Baille (Toulouse) are unsurprisingly the two props, but Peato Mauvaka interestingly gets a start.

Mauvaka has generally been seen as the impact replacement when Julian Marchand has been fit, but the 27-year-old is preferred for this clash, with his Toulouse team-mate on the bench.

Reda Wardi and Dorian Aldegheri are the other front-row replacements, while Romain Taofifenua, Paul Boudehent, Cameron Woki and Nolann Le Garrec and Bielle-Biarrey complete the 23.

France’s team to face Ireland

France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Yoram Moefana, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Lucu, 8 Gregory Alldritt (c), 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Paul Boudehent, 21 Cameron Woki, 22 Nolann Le Garrec, 23 Louis Bielle-Biarrey

Date: Friday, February 2
Venue: Orange Velodrome, Marseille
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley (England), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

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