Five talking points as France name their Rugby World Cup squad

Few Rugby World Cup’s have been as eagerly awaited as this one and for those belting out La Marseillaise, the hopes and dreams of the nation have never been greater.

Few Rugby World Cup’s have been as eagerly awaited as this one and for those belting out La Marseillaise, the hopes and dreams of the nation have never been greater.

Fabien Galthie and his coaching team announced the 33-man squad ahead of their final Summer Nations Series clash with Australia, which ended in a resounding 41-19 victory.

They head into their own tournament as one of the favourites, having not lost on home soil for 13 matches, a record that dates back to March 2021.

Les Bleus are in a group with New Zealand, Italy, Namibia and Uruguay and as a nation expects, we look at five talking points from their squad announcement.

Bielle-Biarrey and Boudehent make the cut

Before the Summer Nations Series, neither Paul Boudehent nor Louis Bielle-Biarrey had featured for France, but they have timed their run to perfection.

The duo now have two and three caps respectively for Les Bleus but their form in those matches and training were enough for Galthie to include them in the squad.

It is a particular coup for Bielle-Biarrey, who was playing in the U20 Six Nations in spring but did enough to force his way into the squad.

Both players show that although Galthie very rarely changes his squads barring injury, the door is always open to new talent.

Jelonch and Baille included despite injury concerns

France are already without Romain Ntamack after his ACL injury sustained against Scotland but they are nursing further injury to Anthony Jelonch and Cyril Baille too.

Jelonch, who tore his ACL in the Guinness Six Nations, has not played since February, while Baille suffered a calf injury that is due to rule him out for at least five weeks.

Despite those injuries though, Galthie has included the pair, suggesting they may be ahead of their respective return dates and will at least play some part in the tournament.

Time will tell how fit the pair really are and whether France may regret their inclusion but in the meantime, Galthie will be delighted to have two of his most important forwards in the squad.

No space for Serin and Dumortier

Two of the most notable exclusions came in the form of scrum-half Baptiste Serin and winger Ethan Dumortier.

Serin, who has 47 caps for France, was axed in favour of Baptiste Couilloud, joining Galthie’s first choice duo of scrum-halves Antoine Dupont and Maxime Lucu.

Dumortier started all five Guinness Six Nations matches, scoring two tries but has now been ousted from the squad, with Bielle-Biarrey chosen in favour of the Lyon star.

It seems a tough break for the pair not to be involved in a home World Cup but they remain on the standby list, which could yet see them included should there be any injuries.

All change from four years ago

Just seven of the squad from 2019 have made the cut this time around, showing how much Galthie has tinkered with the team since taking over as head coach.

Of those seven, six were involved in the 20-19 quarter-final defeat to Wales – Dupont, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud, Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon and Baille.

They will be key for France as players with that all important World Cup experience but there has not been a hangover from the previous regime, with a lot of turnover following back-to-back quarter-final exits.

Settled squad

Since Galthie took over, 14 of his 15 most common starters are included in the squad, with only Ntamack out.

He has always been determined to select a continuous squad and thus it should be no surprise we have seen Baille and Jelonch return to the fray so quickly after injury.

World Cups often require rotation but expect less than most with Galthie, who will want his side to gather momentum through the group stage and into the knockout stages as they look to get their hands on the William Webb Ellis title for the first time in Paris.