Rugby-France's Villiere, Thomas start on the wings against Italy

Julien Pretot
·2-min read
Six Nations Championship - Scotland v France

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Gabin Villiere and Teddy Thomas will start on the wings for France in their Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on Saturday, coach Fabien Galthie said.

They will form Les Bleus' back triangle with fullback Brice Dulin who, like Villiere, made his mark during last year's Autumn Nations Cup.

"(Villiere) earned his cap with his two performances in the autumn and he has also been very good in club rugby (with Toulon), we did not give him anything," Galthie told a news conference.

"Teddy has been very good, he brings his speed and capacity to score," he added, while also denying that the Racing 92 player has defensive shortcomings.

"He is also capable of defending well."

With Virimi Vakatawa injured, Arthur Vincent will start at centre alongside Gael Fickou.

Gregory Alldritt was confirmed as a starter at number eight after recovering from a knee injury.

He will feature alongside captain Charles Ollivon and Dylan Cretin, who was selected by Galthie over Anthony Jelonch and Cameron Woki.

"At the end of the day it's pretty simple: there is a lot of competition and the best players play," said Galthie.

Matthieu Jalibert was picked over Louis Carbonel at flyhalf to pair up with the highly-fancied scrumhalf Antoine Dupont.

"He (Jalibert) is ready. Just like this team, he is one year older, he's got more experience. He is ready. He has found his place in our organisation," Galthie explained, before setting his squad a simple goal for the Six Nations.

"We're building a team to win. So we want to win."

The squad was trimmed from 37 to 31 as part of a COVID-19 protocol, in which the players will not be allowed to return to their clubs in-between Six Nations games.

France have improved dramatically since Galthie took over last year, finishing second in the Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup. They have not won the Six Nations since achieving a Grand Slam in 2010.

Team:

15-Brice Dulin, 14-Teddy Thomas, 13-Arthur Vincent, 12-Gael Fickou, 11-Gabin Villiere, 10-Matthieu Jalibert, 9-Antoine Dupont, 8-Charles Ollivon (captain), 7-Gregory Alldritt, 6-Dylan Cretin, 5-Paul Willemse, 4-Bernard Le Roux, 3-Mohamed Haouas, 2-Julien Marchand, 1-Cyril Baille

Replacements: 16-Pierre Bourgarit, 17-Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18-Dorian Aldegheri, 19-Romain Taofifenua, 20-Anthony Jelonch, 21-Baptiste Serin, 22-Louis Carbonel, 23-Damian Penaud

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Toby Davis)