Noves cuts French imports for Six Nations

France coach Guy Noves has cut down on the French imports

France coach Guy Noves has named his squad for the 2016 Six Nations Championship cutting the number of foreign born players from ten down to three.

Noves has called up eight newcomers, including France Sevens star Virimi Vakatawa, in his 31-man squad for the upcoming Six Nations tournament.

“We tried to involve young players on every line,” explained Noves, who took over following France’s ignominious World Cup exit in October and a record 62-13 quarter-final defeat to winners New Zealand.

Just half a dozen players have emerged from the World Cup fiasco, with the eight newcomers joining ten players who return to the fold.

With a mission of “recreating hope” among the battered Bleus, Noves and his deputies Yannick Bru (forwards) and Jean-Frederic Dubois (backs) have established a mix of youth and experience which they hope will blend during a three-day training session from January 25-27, after an initial two-day get together earlier this month.

“We need players who can bring a fresh mindset, looking to the future,” said Noves, who coached Toulouse from 1993 to 2015, guiding them to their most successful period since the 1920s.

Fiji-born centre Vakatawa, 23, who started his career at Racing 92, has over the past year established himself as a star of international calibre in France’s Sevens team, with his explosive and versatile style catching the eye of Noves and his coaching staff.

“They say wonderful things about him and we were able to observe his excellent performances with the France Sevens team,” said Noves, who stressed that a number of wingers who could have figured on the list were injured.

“They say he does not defend well, that he risks not being well positioned … But if we never let him play, if we wait. I think you have to move fast,” said Noves.

“We tried to build a team which will allow us to work in continuity, with an eye to the next four years.”

Scrum-half Sebastien Bezy, lock Paul Jedrasiak, flankers Yacouba Camara and Kevin Gourdon, prop Jefferson Poirot, hooker Camille Chat and centre Jonathan Danty will also join the group for the first time.

Veteran fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc, still recovering from a shinbone injury, has been provisionally left out and replaced by Toulouse’s Jean-Marc Doussain.

“We had a discussion with Francois .. He knew that his presence depended on his performances on the pitch. We know that Francois has resumed training very seriously,” said Noves.

That allows 24-year-old Doussain, a former protege of Noves at Toulouse, to return two years after his last selection, then in the position of scrum-half.

The main surprise however was the inclusion of Stade Francais flanker Antoine Burban, also on the comeback trail after three months out injured.

Burban, 28, who has three caps and was not selected for the World Cup, replaces South African-born flanker Bernard Le Roux, who is absent for personal reasons.

Also returning are wingers Maxime Medard and Benjamin Fall, back Hugo Bonneval, locks Sebastien Vahaamahina and Wenceslas Lauret and scrum-half Morgan Parra.

Insisting “the France team is closed to no-one”, Noves will now judge his side before making the cut on January 28.

“We’re starting to have an idea of the 23 players who will start the Championship,” he said.

“But between our idea and what’s going to happen between now and two weeks’ time, it’s in our interest to anticipate a little.”

France begin their Six Nations campaign at home to Italy at the Stade de France in Paris on February 6.

In four tournaments under Noves’ predecessor Philippe Saint-Andre, Les Bleus never finished above fourth and even took the wooden spoon in 2013.

France Six Nations squad

Forwards (16):

Eddy Ben Arous (Racing 92), Jefferson Poirot (Bordeaux-Bègles), Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), Rabah Slimani (Stade Français), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon, cap.), Camille Chat (Racing 92), Yoann Maestri (Toulon), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Français), Sébastien Vahaamahina (Clermont), Paul Jedrasiak (Clermont), Yacouba Camara (Toulouse), Damien Chouly (Clermont), Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse), Antoine Burban (Stade Français), Kevin Gourdon (La Rochelle).

Backs (15):

Sébastien Bézy (Toulouse), Morgan Parra (Clermont), Maxime Machenaud (Racing 92), Jules Plisson (Stade Français), Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse), Jonathan Danty (Stade Français), Alexandre Dumoulin (Racing 92), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Gaël Fickou (Toulouse), Rémi Lamerat (Castres), Benjamin Fall (Montpellier), Virimi Vakatawa (FFR), Maxime Médard (Toulouse), Hugo Bonneval (Stade Français), Scott Spedding (Clermont)

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