Jonathan Danty banned: Who replaces him in the starting XV for France?

Jared Wright
France centres Jonathan Danty, Yoram Moefana and Arthur Vincent.

France centres Jonathan Danty, Yoram Moefana and Arthur Vincent.

France will be without star centre Jonathan Danty for the remaining two Six Nations fixtures due to suspension.

Danty was handed a five-week ban, reduced by one if he completes World Rugby’s Coaching Intervention Programme, following his red card in the stalemate with Italy in round three.

The centre has been a regular starter for Les Bleus in recent years despite his indifferent form of late, with his suspension now leaving Fabien Galthie with a void to fill for the upcoming clashes against Wales and England.

We take a look at the options Galthie has at his disposal.

Front runner

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.

There is one clear front-runner for the position in Bordeaux star Yoram Moefana. The 23-year-old has been a regular squad member since making his debut in 2020 and has cracked the matchday 23 in each of their three Six Nations matches this year.

He started the opener against Ireland on the wing and came off the bench against Scotland and Italy, replacing Danty at Murrayfield.

Moefana is a handy option on the wing for France but is more suited for the centre position where he regularly plays for Bordeaux, and his inclusion in the number 12 jersey is a straightforward switch with little other disruption in the backline.

He is a powerful runner and a strong breakdown presence, two of Danty’s big strengths, and is arguably the most like-for-like replacement for the suspended midfielder.

Danty’s poor discipline of late could provide Moefana with the opportunity to nail down the jersey for himself, and it’s one he thoroughly deserves, having impressed more often than not in his 26 previous caps, particularly when he has played in his preferred position in the centres.

The French midfield could certainly do with a breath of fresh air, and Moefana can certainly provide that, as could the other two members of the playing squad that have yet to get their chance this Six Nations.

In the mix

Emilien Gailleton in action for France U20s during the U20 Six Nations in 2023.

Emilien Gailleton in action for France U20s during the U20 Six Nations in 2023.

Galthie turned to youngsters Nicolas Depoortere (21) and Émilien Gailleton (20) when he announced his squad for the Six Nations, and he has stuck with the pair throughout the tournament.

The one caveat that comes with the pair is that they are both naturally outside centres and feature in the number 13 jersey for their respective clubs.

Promoting the uncapped Bordeaux star Depoortere or the one-capped Pau talent Gailleton to the starting XV would likely lead to Gael Fickou shifting into the number 12 jumper.

Fickou has filled that role multiple times in the past and would be able to do so with little fuss again. France’s defence has been shaky in recent times, and perhaps him moving a channel inward could lead to an improvement.

Gailleton impressed before the World Cup last year, producing a solid outing on debut against Scotland, while Depoortere has been in outstanding form for Pau in the Top 14.

Both players would be well-deserving of an opportunity, even if it is off the bench, but it would be a riskier selection compared to that of Moefana, although France have had success with backing youth under Galthie.

With ill-discipline being a feature of Danty’s game recently, perhaps backing the younger options is the right route to go down, especially as they build towards Australia 2027, by which time the suspended centre will be 34 and if he continues this decline will no longer be near his destructive best.

Outside bets

Arthur Vincent has been a regular in Gatlhie’s squads since he took charge of the side in 2020, when fit, but has seemingly slipped down the pecking order this season.

He was not called into the Six Nations squad after getting the nod for the World Cup, and despite Montpellier’s poor performances this season, he has been solid. While he has been played more on the wing and at outside centre for Montpellier this season, with Jan Serfontein starting at inside centre, he is more than capable of filling the number 12 jumper. He could also add versatility on the bench by being able to cover both centre roles and the wing.

Toulouse centre Pierre-Louis Barassi is another capped international who Galthie could turn to, particularly if he wants a big, abrasive presence in the midfield.

Barassi has swapped between the inside and outside centre positions for Toulouse this season but last played for France in 2021. He has scored five times in 14 appearances for Toulouse and could create a dangerous centre pairing with Fickou.


Danty’s La Rochelle team-mate Jules Favre has been a consistent performer for his club and has filled the French international’s void and earned a call-up to the Les Bleus squad in 2022 but is yet to make his Test debut. It is unlikely that he would get a shot, having been overlooked in recent squads despite solid club performances.

It’s slim pickings beyond Favre as players such as Sofiane Guitoune and Henry Chavancy have not been in the mix for some time and are unlikely to be so again suddenly.

Surely not!

There is an incredibly unlikely chance that Damian Penaud will be shifted off the wing and into the centres for the final two fixtures.

Penaud has been in an insane run of try-scoring form over the last 18 months on the wing for France but has dabbled in the centres before having played in the position at youth and club level.

The 27-year-old often turned out in the number 13 jumper for Clermont, doing so on four occasions in his final season with the side before moving to Bordeaux-Begles. He is yet to start in the position for his new club.

Penaud earned his first two caps for France in 2016 at outside centre and spent most of his earlier career in the role, but he has become almost exclusively a winger since. In fact, his last start for France in the number 13 jumper was back in the 23-23 draw with Japan during the 2017 November internationals.

France is desperate to turn things around in their last two matches of the Six Nations, but they certainly cannot be this desperate as Penaud has shown in the past that he lacks the defensive capabilities required of a number 13 at the international level.

READ MORE: Brian O’Driscoll says Fabien Galthie ‘in trouble’ with France ‘unravelling’