PARIS (AP) France coach Guy Noves has selected four uncapped players and recalled center Yann David for his Six Nations squad.
Lock Arthur Iturria, prop Mohamed Boughanmi, backrower Fabien Sanconnie and fullback Geoffrey Palis are the newcomers. The 32-man squad meets Sunday at the national training center in Marcoussis, on the outskirts of Paris, ahead of the opening game at defending champion England on Feb. 4.
David, who has four test caps, played in the 2008 Six Nations campaign but has not been selected since a 39-12 loss to New Zealand in 2009. Meanwhile, flanker Raphael Lakafia also gets another chance to stake his claim, having drifted out of contention since playing twice for France at the 2011 World Cup.
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One notable absentee from the France squad is experienced flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc, who is still recovering from a broken arm sustained in a highly physical 52-8 win over Samoa in November. Trinh-Duc, who has 56 caps, is expected to be called up later in the tournament.
France backs coach Jeff Dubois is seeking improvement in areas such as catching high balls, which was one of France’s weak points when it lost 24-19 to New Zealand at the end of November.
”We’ll work on our aerial play, don’t worry about that,” Dubois said. ”Especially as the English showed during the November tests that they have a very big kicking game. They will look to put us under pressure.”
The backs will also need to work harder on their positional play when they are not in possession, Dubois added.
Although forwards coach Yannick Bru is confident that France’s lineout play has significantly improved after competing well against New Zealand, he thinks that France still has considerable room for improvement in the rucks.
”We need to have a surgical precision,” Bru said. ”We’ll need it during the tournament with two away games in England and Ireland.”
England is looking to extend its winning streak to a national record of 15 matches as it chases New Zealand’s all-time record of 18.
While England marched to a Six Nations Grand Slam last year, France finished second to last, scraping narrow home wins against Italy (23-21) and Ireland (10-9).
France: Forwards: Cyril Baille, Eddy Ben Arous, Uini Atonio, Rabah Slimani, Mohamed Boughanmi, Guilhem Guirado, Camille Chat, Clement Maynadier, Julien Le Devedec, Yoann Maestri, Arthur Iturria, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly, Fabien Sanconnie, Loann Goujon, Kevin Gourdon, Louis Picamoles, Raphael Lakafia. Backs: Baptiste Serin, Maxime Machenaud, Jean-Marc Doussain, Camille Lopez, Gael Fickou, Yann David, Wesley Fofana, Remi Lamerat, Djibril Camara, Yoann Huget, Geoffrey Palis, Noa Nakaitaci, Scott Spedding, Virimi Vakatawa.