France welcomed back a host of key contributors in the build-up to Round 4 of the Guinness Six Nations, with Fabien Galthié now facing some intriguing selection calls of which to bring into his matchday squad.
Galthié has been characterised by his consistency of selection since taking charge of Les Bleus, and entered this year’s Championship with six regular fixtures in his first choice 23 absent.
While lock Cameron Woki and winger Gabin Villière will not be back in time to make an appearance this campaign, which is also the case for back-up loosehead Jean-Baptiste Gros, a trio of key players are battling for a spot in the squad for Twickenham.
Jonathan Danty, France’s starting inside centre in last year’s Grand Slam, as well as Peato Mauvaka and Maxime Lucu, replacements at hooker and scrum-half respectively, are all back in contention for Le Crunch.
The question is, how many, if any, will crack the first-choice 23?
Mauvaka feels like the most obvious candidate, having started twice for Toulouse since making his comeback from a hand injury.
The first of those actually came in the back row, with the French leaders suffering something of an injury crisis, but he was back in his familiar hooker role against Racing 92.
While Gaëtan Barlot has played well in his time off the bench to cover for Julien Marchand, Mauvaka had established himself as part of one of the game’s best double acts with his Toulouse colleague.
He featured in 13 victories in a row for Les Bleus before missing the start of this campaign, and if he can prove his fitness, feels like he would be a logical fit to come straight back in.
Lucu in as Dupont cover?
Lucu, meanwhile, is yet to taste defeat in a France jersey, and came through his first start for Bordeaux-Bègles since mid-January when he suffered an ankle injury.
In his absence, Nolann Le Garrec and Baptiste Couilloud have been named on the bench for the first three rounds, but neither has made it onto the pitch.
That is because Antoine Dupont has played every minute of the campaign so far, a remarkable stat for a scrum-half.
Lucu has the faith of Galthié and his coaching staff, so if they are trying to ensure their captain does not play too many minutes, he might be an option to come back into the matchday squad.
The Danty question
Last, but not least, Danty is the only regular starter who is in contention to return to the side.
In his absence, Yoram Moefana has filled in at inside centre, and there is a feeling that the coaching staff may show caution by sticking with the Bordeaux youngster.
Danty has just come back from a knee injury, and while he played the full 80 minutes for La Rochelle away to Pau at the weekend, he had a bit of a scare after a blow the previous week.
While he did join up with the France squad ahead of the Scotland game, Danty was among the players released back to their clubs, and the question now is whether Galthié believes he is ready for the intensity of a trip to Twickenham.