New Look French Rugby Squad out to Test All Blacks: 4 Players to Watch

Guy Noves’ announcement of the French rugby squad combines a blend of youth and experience. Ahead of the November Internationals, the head coach hasn’t shied away from including uncapped players in the match day squad.

At the mid-point of the Rugby World Cup cycle; along with an exciting opening nine rounds of the Top14, game time for the younger, inexperienced players will prove to be invaluable. With two matches against the All Blacks looming, here’s four key Frenchmen to watch in their attempt to topple the world’s No.1 rugby nation.

Antoine Dupont

Arguably the most in-form scrum-half in the Top14, the 20-year old U20’s graduate, picked up his first cap during the Six Nations. Dupont was named in Noves’ squad for the summer tour to South Africa, but only appeared in the second Test loss as a replacement. However, his league form undoubtedly warrants his place in the starting fifteen.

The Toulouse man has scored four times and currently sits top of the stats chart for most try assists this season (7). Noves will be keen for the scrum half to transfer his league form to the international stage almost immediately. Against his opposite man in TJ Perenara, there will be very little room for error.

Anthony Belleau

A debut ahead at fly half for Les Bleus, Belleau has performed well for Toulon in the Top14 this season. With sixty-five points so far this term, the 26-year old was the key man in last season’s Top14 semi-final. Belleau’s drop goal in the eightieth minute sent Toulon into the final against Clermont. Having operated at U20 level, Belleau toured with the French Barbarians to South Africa in the summer.

French rugby squad flyhalf Anthony Belleau (R) practices with scrumhalf Antoine Dupont during a training session. (Photo credit CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

Two tries in the first test highlighted his potential at international level and was a positive despite the two-test series loss. With a new scrum-half – fly-half combination, Belleau’s cool and calm stature alongside Dupont’s sniping at the breakdown could be the start of a promising partnership.

Geoffrey Doumayrou

Another debutant for the French and at 26-years old, Doumayrou provides a wealth of experience at club level. His recent performances for La Rochelle has given Noves no other option than to start the centre. Doumayrou brings a good all-round game, boasting a 92% tackle success in the Top14 as well as a potency in attack that has propelled La Rochelle in to the top three.

Doumayrou was outstanding for La Rochelle against Harlequins in the Champions Cup. His two tries at the Stoop would have made Noves’ take notice. In Doumayrou, France’s new 9-10-12 axis is untried and untested but could provide the questions that knocks at the door of the All Black defence.

Nans Ducuing

Having spent some time on the French tour to South Africa in the summer, Ducuing is another of Noves’ inexperienced players to get the nod. Starting at full-back, Ducuing has appeared in seven of Bordeaux’s Top14 games this season. His two league tries this terms don’t do his performances justice. Noves will want his full back to set the attacking platform – getting over the advantage line and keeping the New Zealand defenders guessing.

French Rugby Union fullback Nans Ducuing, member of the French Rugby squad, trains during the team’s captain run. (Photo credit CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

His season’s stats certainly highlight his threat behind the backline. Ducuing sits second for most carries (62) as well as defenders beaten (13) and significantly, most metres gained (554). Ducuing certainly has the ability but whether he can transfer that to the top level will be interesting to see especially against a relatively strong All Blacks side.

New Look French Rugby Squad out to Test All Blacks

Les Bleus fans haven’t been treated to the rugby of old in recent years. The flair and extravagance of French rugby has been at a low-point, but there’s something about the current squad Noves has assembled that could be the start of its return. This season’s league campaign has been a one of exciting attacking rugby and if the French can replicate that, they are sure to emerge from the November internationals with their heads held high.

In the short term, tomorrow’s test against the All Blacks will undoubtedly be the real ‘test’ of their new look squad. But with France’s relatively unknown and inexperienced individuals facing the world champions, it makes their two-match mini series that little bit more fascinating.

France v New Zealand – Stade de France, Paris. 8:35pm (local time)

French Selection v New Zealand – November 14, Groupama Stadium, Lyon

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