France bet on rookies against Boks

Thu, 01 Jun 2017 20:28
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: France will seize the opportunity to try out a number of uncapped players during this month's Test series against South Africa, forwards coach Yannick Bru said on Thursday.

"We have a good mix of experienced players, but we have a couple of good potentials who are young who we chose to bring, to learn from international level. We have a good mix," said Bru at a press conference in Johannesburg.

Coach Guy Noves on Saturday named rookies Damian Penaud, Anthony Jelonch and Vincent Rattez in his squad for the tour of South Africa, which gets underway at Pretoria's famed Loftus Versfeld stadium on June 10.

French No.8 Louis Picamoles said that the surprise absence of Bismarck du Plessis, who plays in France, from the Springbok squad was notable but would not dominate his team's preparation.

"It was a surprise, yes and no. We will be concentrating on the players who are in the team," he said.

"But yes it is a notable absence."

Despite the Springboks' woeful run of recent form, Bru refused to rule out South African victory on home soil.

"We don't speak too much about the Springboks. We have had to face a lot of defeat too, but since the Six Nations we are really improving," he said.

"We have the ambition to do better - which is to beat a team that is in front of us in the rugby championships.

"But we have a lot of humility... We are improving, we have a lot of ambition."

Some of France's star players are expected to miss the opening fixture due to the late finish of the domestic Top 14 competition.

But Bru would not confirm how many would be absent from the squad because of the Top 14 final which takes place on June 4.

"We will make a choice at the end of next week," he said, adding that only those players considered match fit would take on the Boks.

La Rochelle prop Mohamed Boughanmi is also in line for a first cap in South Africa, having also been included in the France group during the 2017 Six Nations.

Clermont centre Penaud, 20, Castres' Jelonch, 20, and La Rochelle winger Rattez, 25, were also called up for the first time.

France will meet the Springboks on June 10 in Pretoria, June 17 in Durban and June 24 in Johannesburg.

The first group of players flew out to South Africa on Sunday with a second group comprising players from Top 14 finalists Toulon and Clermont, arriving later.

Agence France-Presse