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Five names stand out among the 26 players named in the France U20 squad.

As they prepare for the first match of the Championship against Ireland on Saturday 3 February in Aix-en-Provence, let's take a look at that list.

Every year, the U20s offer a host of surprises, emerging stars and promising talents. Hence the importance of not missing a single match in the U20 Six Nations to get an idea of the next generation of internationals.

Last year, praise was showered on France's Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Hugo Reus, Nicolas Depoortere, Lenni Nouchi, Emilien Gailleton and Posolo Tuilagi. The first of these has already earned a place in the XV de France, and the others shouldn't be long in coming as they are making their presence felt on Top 14 pitches.

In fact, the last three mentioned - Nouchi, Gailleton and Tuilagi - have become regular trainers in the French national team; even on the verge of possible selection.

An initial Bleuets training camp in early January with 26 players ended in a 22-18 defeat in Italy. A second camp took place from 22-28 January with a larger squad of 34 players, nearly half of whom returned.

The class of 2024 Under-20s should once again show diamonds that the coming years will polish. Here are five players who should stand out from the lot.

Léo Carbonneau, 19, CA Brive, scrum-half

With Philippe (the father, scrum-half too who won 32 caps for France in 1995-2001) and Olivier (the uncle, center with Toulouse between 1992 and 1997), the Carbonneau family is steeped in rugby, and Léo was no exception.

"He's a fantastic impact player," says his U20 coach, Sébastien Calvet, with whom he was world champion in 2023. "Even so, he was a valuable replacement for Baptiste Jauneau and was always very strong when he got into games."

He is following in the meteoric footsteps of his best friend Mathis Ferté, whom he met at Brive - where he signed Espoir at the same time as him in 2022 - by starting in Top 14 (against Stade Français) two weeks after his 18th birthday.

After a full 2023 season in which he made nine appearances for the U20s (3 tries) during the Tournament and the World Championship alongside his Brive call-ups, he was once again a key figure (15 matches, including 10 as a starter). For the Six Nations, Carbonneau will be joined by his team-mate in the Brive back-row, Tom Raffy.

Mathis Ferté, 19, CA Brive, full-back

By the time Mathis Ferté, from the Lot region, plays against Ireland on 3 February, he will have turned 20 24 hours ago. The Brive full-back is a versatile player, equally at ease on the wing or in the scrum.

And it's not for nothing that he is a keen follower for Cheslin Kolbe and Antoine Dupont. His is a complete profile that appeals to Sébastien Calvet.

"Mathis Ferté will be with us this year and is still doing a lot of good for his professional team at Brive," he says. "Léo Carbonneau and Mathis Ferté are always in Brive's professional squad. So it's certain that they will bring a lot of framework and ambition and also a lot of flair to our team, because they are very attacking and very Latin players in our game."

Mathis started playing rugby at the age of four with his coach dad, and also practises boxing. An Espoir for Brive in 2022, he was just 18 when he was thrown into the deep end of the Top 14 against Toulon, then against Stade Français as a substitute before starting against Racing 92 in only his third match and scoring a try in the process.

World Champion in 2023 with the U20s, he is one of Brive's most satisfying players, who locked him up until 2026 before being relegated to the Pro D2, where he excelled again this season: 16 appearances, including 15 as a starter, 1,215 minutes played, six tries, 84% success rate in tackle.

Marko Gazzotti, 19, Union Bordeaux-Bègles, loose-forward

"We can't not talk about Marko Gazzotti, who was named best player at last year's World Championship," says Sébastien Calvet when asked to name the players who will be attracting attention at this Six Nations championship in 2024.

However, the player who joined Union Bordeaux-Bègles this season will not be helping the Bleuets to start with, as announced by the French Rugby Federation on the 29th. The decision was prompted by "the sporting context and injuries" at the Bordeaux club.

The trained number 8, who can also play all the third-row positions, is a phenomenon (1m92, 107 kg). A native of Savoie, born to a father with Italian roots and a Lithuanian mother (who gave the 'k' to his first name), a former handball player, he was nurtured and trained in Grenoble (alongside 19-year-old hooker Barnabé Massa, also a 2023 world champion with the U20s) and courted by the biggest clubs (Toulon and Montpellier) before arriving in Bordeaux in 2023, already with solid experience in Pro D2.

Brought up in rugby since the age of 5, with rare speed and explosiveness, strong in collisions and intelligent in the game, he gets his team going with his good runs. Despite being out of action for two months at the start of the season with a thumb injury, he has come back strongly, starting five of the seven games played (93% success rate in tackles).

Mathis Castro-Ferreira, 20, Stade Toulousain, back-row

A native of the Hautes-Pyrénées, where his great-grandfather already played rugby, Mathis Castro-Ferreira was discovered at Stade O Maubourguetois Rugby and has been a professional at Toulouse since 2018. He has committed to staying with his club until 2028, his first professional contract.

With 157 minutes already played in pro team this season, he is also a tackle machine (92% success rate) and a good ball stealer. Although he was ruled out of the U20 warm-up match against Italy at the start of January, his power and ball handling skills make him a key player for Les Bleuets.

Patrick Tuifua, 19, Hawke's Bay Magpies, back-row

Born in New Caledonia 19 years ago, the loose forward (1m91, 113kg) has the unusual circumstance of playing for a club in New Zealand. A rare opportunity for him, who has been playing rugby since the age of 8.

In 2020, he was awarded a scholarship to Lindisfarne College in Hastings, in the Hawke's Bay region of New Zealand's central-eastern North Island, when he was just 15 years old.

He was the only player from his college to be included in the Hurricanes' U18 team for a training camp in preparation for the U18 Super Rugby Championship in 2022. The following year, he joined the Hawke's Bay flagship team for the National Provincial Championship (NPC), where his team finished 5th.

As a bonus...

Adam Bouaré, tight-head prop (19) - 1m78, 113 kg (Montpellier HR), holder of triple French-Senegalese-Algerian citizenship, played sparring partner with the French national team in its preparations for Rugby World Cup.

Antonin Corso, second row (19) - 1m90, 103 kg (Oyonnax Rugby), who has been playing rugby since the age of 10, was recruited to the Oyonnax Espoirs team.

Axel Desperes, fly-half (20 years old) - 1m83, 78 kg (Section paloise), an established figure at his club, where he demonstrated his goalscoring qualities from an early age (his 40-metre penalty in the 78th minute of a Challenge Cup match against Newport earned his team a valuable attacking bonus in January 2023).