France left to rely on part-timers

PA Sport
Olivier Elima knows France's chances have been weakened by the loss of three Catalan players
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Olivier Elima knows France's chances have been weakened by the loss of three Catalan players

France could have six part-timers in their team to face England in the final of the autumn international series at the Salford City Stadium on Sunday.

Les Tricolores have lost a huge slice of experience with the departure of Catalan Dragons trio Gregory Mounis, Cyril Stacul and Mickael Simon, who were all injured in their 44-6 defeat by England in Hull last Saturday. Captain Olivier Elima admits having a smaller pool of full-time players to pick from is a handicap.

"With time and more professionalism, we are going to get more young players up to Super League level," said Elima. "Hopefully we will have a wider choice. At the moment, it's like England picking a team from one Super League team and the rest from the Championship. Saying that, we still do pretty good."

Coach Aurelien Cologni and Elima are confident their side can improve sufficiently from last weekend as they look to end a run of 14 consecutive defeats by England.

The return of seasoned forward Jamel Fakir, who was not born when France registered their last victory in 1981, is a much-needed boost.

He was forced to miss France's opening game against Wales due to a one-match ban imposed for a high tackle on Rob Burrow during the Catalans' play-off defeat by Leeds in September.

Fakir, 30, then picked up a hamstring injury in training and was wrapped in cotton wool ahead of the final.

"I could have played last week but I talked to the coach and he said he would prefer to wait for a week more so that I am 100%," said Fakir, who made his Test debut against New Zealand 12 years ago.

"I have trained and am ready to go. My body is good, I am very excited to play in the final. We want to forget the game at Hull. We are very excited, we want to win. I know it's very tough but every player is raring to go this week."

France 19-man squad (Catalan Dragons unless stated): M Pala, V Duport, K Larroyer, D Cardace, C Soubeyras (Pia), T Sadaoui (Carcassonne), T Bosc, W Barthau; O Elima (capt), T Gigot (Avignon), R Casty, J Bousquet, J Fakir, S Raguin, J Baitieri, R Bemba (Carcassonne), E Pelissier, M Griffi (Lezignan), K Bentley (Lezignan).

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