Fabien Galthie will have kept a close eye on all the action in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup as France begin preparations for their Six Nations defence.
Time is running out for players to impress the France head coach on club duty, with the opening game against Italy quickly approaching.
There is undoubtedly an opportunity for players to break into the starting XV or secure a bench role with key players such as Jonathan Danty, Cameron Woki, Peato Mauvaka and Maxime Lucu all sidelined.
With that in mind, we have picked our winners and losers from this weekend’s action.
The Lyon back-rower has been in fine form this season and is vying for a hotly contested position in the France set-up. The return of the inspirational Charles Ollivon and the presence of Gregory Alldritt in the number eight jumper means there is really only one position that is contestable in the back-row.
Cretin showed against the Bulls that he should undoubtedly be in the conversation. Patrick Sobela and Cretin pestered and disrupted the South African side’s breakdown, stalling just about every promising attack; he also made all nine of his tackles.
With Woki sidelined, Galthie might look to his back-row to compensate for the loss of lineout prowess, and this is another area where Cretin thrives. The Bulls have one of the best lineouts in the Champions Cup but were able to claim just two steals, with Cretin getting one back for Lyon and taking nine of their 14 lineouts.
Seckou Macalou and Anthony Jelonch also put their hands up for selection through their performance for Stade Francais and Toulouse, respectively, but Cretin got the slightest edge over the pair.
Picked in the Six Nations squad despite not featuring for Toulouse at all this season, it was simply a win that Cros got back onto the pitch against Munster and got through the final 20 minutes unscathed.
Nolann Le Garrec
Lucu’s injury has swung the door open for two uncapped scrum-halves to deputise for Antoine Dupont in Nolann Le Garrec.
Judging from this weekend’s action, Le Garrec looks to have taken the lead on Leo Coly despite Racing 92‘s defeat.
The Parisian side crashed out of the Champions Cup after falling to a 36-10 loss to Leinster, but Le Garrec was one of the shining lights for his side.
His game management and combination with Finn Russell kept Racing in the match until half-time when they were down by just two points.
He kicked well out of hand and was a threat on attack gaining 36 metres and completing four offloads.
Danty’s injury means Gael Fickou will need another new centre partner for the Six Nations.
Last year, Yoram Moefana shifted from the wing to inside centre for the Test against Ireland, and while Galthie will know that he has that option at his disposal, the form of Pierre-Louis Barassi suggests that there may be another shake-up.
Barassi impressed against Munster this weekend with a tidy defensive and offence shift in a hard-fought 20-16 victory.
He gained 50 metres against the Irish province and failed to achieve gainline success on just two occasions for his eight carries.
He was sharp defensively as Munster struggled to crack open the Top 14 side and linked up well with the likes of Dupont and Romain Ntamack, which would play in his favour for Les Bleus.
While Le Garrec took his opportunity with both hands, Coly could not do the same as Montpellier struggled to get out of first gear against London Irish while he was on the pitch.
His side was down 21-0 before he was replaced by Cobus Reinach, a substitution that swung momentum and resulted in a 21-all draw.
It wasn’t a pleasant day at the office for Toulouse loosehead Baille as John Ryan dismantled the Les Bleus front-rower in the scrums on Sunday.
Baille is a world-class loosehead, and his performance against Munster won’t put his Test ambitions in immediate danger, but Galthie will be concerned when seeing his first-choice prop being driven back in that manner.
The 29-year-old was his usual busy self around the park but was guilty of conceding two open-play penalties.
Jolmes will fancy his chances of slotting into Woki’s vacancy, but his performance against Gloucester left much to be desired.
He had a largely anonymous performance against the Cherry and Whites, making just three carries and one tackle.
He did manage one lineout steal, but overall, it was an underwhelming outing for a player well within a shout of cracking the matchday 23.