France to gamble at fly-half, Posolo Tuilagi released and star dropped ahead of Wales Test

Jared Wright
France back Thomas Ramos, uncapped lock Emmanuel Meafou, head coach Fabien Galthies and locks Posolo Tuilagi and Cameron Woki.

France back Thomas Ramos, uncapped lock Emmanuel Meafou, head coach Fabien Galthies and locks Posolo Tuilagi and Cameron Woki.

Fabien Galthie has released six players back to their clubs ahead of the upcoming Six Nations fixture against Wales in Cardiff.

The French head coach is looking to finish the Six Nations on a positive note after a heavy defeat to Ireland, a narrow win over Scotland and a draw with Italy.

However, he heads into the final two weeks of the Championship without two key players: Jonathan Danty, who was suspended, and Matthieu Jalibert, who sustained an injury against Italy.

There is some positive news with locks Thibaud Flament and Emmanuel Meafou back to full fitness along with Les Bleus skipper Gregory Alldritt, who missed the clash against Italy through injury.

France squad update ahead of Wales Test

Ahead of the clash with Warren Gatland’s charges, Galthie has released forwards Dany Priso, Posolo Tuilagi and Cameron Woki as well as backs Pierre-Louis Barassi, Emilien Gailleton and Antoine Hastoy.

It is reported that Tuilagi has been feeling unwell this week and has been released back to Perpignan to get back to full health despite making the most of his opportunities against Ireland, Scotland and in his first Test start versus Italy.

However, that is not the case for Woki who has been dropped out of the squad entirely after lacklustre performances. He came off the bench against Ireland and started France’s latter two Tests but has failed to impress as it looks as if Galthie will name an entirely new second-row pairing this week.

Meanwhile, Hastoy was France’s third choice fly-half at the Rugby World Cup last year but has fallen out of favour with Galthie and despite training with the squad this week has not forced his way into the matchday squad.

This means that usual full-back Thomas Ramos is set to start at fly-half, the position he filled when Jalibert departed the pitch against Scotland in round three. Ramos has often featured in the position for France, but this is set to be his first start at number 10 for his country.

According to a report by Rugby Rama, Ramos will start alongside Nolann Le Garrec in an all-new half-back pairing as Galthie is set to make wholesale changes.

Louis Bielle-Biarrey is set to return to the starting XV ahead of Matthis Lebel, who was a late call-up to start against Scotland, and will be joined on the wing by Damian Penaud. Galthie is set to hand a starting debut to Stade Francais star Leo Barre.

There is another potential debut in Bordeaux youngster Nicolas Depoortere, who is primed to fill Danty’s void at inside centre with Gael Fickou on his outside.

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Changes upfront

In the pack, Alldritt is set for a return at number eight with Francois Cros shifting back to the side of the scrum as Charles Ollivon rounds out the loose trio.

The new second-row partnership for France will reportedly be the Toulouse pairing of Flament and Meafou – who both featured for their club last week after their respective injuries saw them miss the opening three rounds. It will also be a Test debut for Meafou, who qualifies for France through residency.

The final change in the starting line0up is that Julien Marchand will replace Peato Mauvaka in the front-row, with Cyril Baille and Uini Atonio on either side of him.

There is a possibility that Racing 92 star Antoine Gibert could fill a spot on the bench with his ability to cover fly-half and scrum-half, but Maxime Lucu is likely to get the nod instead along and cover the backs in a 6-2 split along with clubmate Yoram Moefana.

Reported France team to face Wales

France: 15 Leo Barre, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Nicolas Depoortere, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 8 Gregory Alldritt (c), 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Sébastien Taofifénua, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Yoram Moefana

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