France name Six Nations squad
Philippe Saint-Andre (File)
Marcoussis - Uncapped center Westley Fofana and lock Yoann Maestri were named in France's provisional squad for the Six Nations on Thursday.
Coach Philippe Saint-Andre also picked flyhalf Lionel Beauxis, fullback Clement Poitrenaud, and flanker Yannick Nyanga - none of whom played in last year's World Cup. Saint-Andre kept faith with the majority (22) of the players from that tournament, however, and resisted the temptation to experiment too much.
"There was a lot of debate over each position, but I don't wish to comment on the absentees," Saint-Andre said. "I hope they are disappointed at not being in the current squad. It's up to them to make the necessary efforts. It's not because they're not in this squad that they can't come back."
Beauxis last played for France in June 2009, but has been in fine form for Toulouse. Nyanga last played at the 2007 World Cup.
"Yannick Nyanga has been outstanding for Toulouse since the start of the season," Saint-Andre said. "We want to have a look at Fofana, he has physical attributes of the very highest level."
Saint-Andre was in the crowd two weeks ago when the 26-year-old Beauxis kicked 28 points - including three drop goals - in a win against Montpellier. He felt it was impossible to leave Beauxis out given his recent performances.
"He's scored 55 points in the last two games," Saint-Andre said. "He did everything a great flyhalf can do in that game against Montpellier, dummies, surging runs ... he's a player who played in the (2007) World Cup and is still very young. He's coming back after a few injuries."
Although Saint-Andre has not named too many surprises, he has also given another chance to the likes of Poitrenaud, a gifted fullback who has 44 caps but who featured only sporadically during Marc Lievremont's four years in charge.
The 30 players will take part in a three-day training camp this month, giving Saint-Andre a better idea who will be in his 23-man squad for the Six Nations opener against Italy at Stade de France on February 4.
Saint-Andre replaced Lievremont, who led France to the World Cup final, where they lost 8-7 to New Zealand.
"We've tried to be as consistent as possible, with a large amount of the players who were at the World Cup," Saint-Andre said, adding that those players provide continuity and will ensure France start the Six Nations competitive.
Although Saint-Andre kept faith with most of the forwards who played in the last World Cup, he overlooked lock Lionel Nallet, who has 70 caps.
"He's 35, he's an exceptional player with a fantastic attitude," Saint-Andre. "I spoke to him on the phone, he understands that for this training camp we need a (younger) player like Yoann Maestri."
Toulouse centers Mathieu Bastareaud and Florian Fritz were both tipped to be included, but Saint-Andre said he was spoilt for choice at center where, he says, "there is the most competition for places."
Although several of the France squad are in their early 30s, Saint-Andre believes the likes of scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili are good enough to keep going until the 2015 World Cup.
"It's like a good wine, the older they get the better they are," Saint-Andre said. "Lionel Nallet is a bit different, he's 35."
France training squad, announced on Thursday, for 2012 Six Nations tournament:
Forwards (17): Fabien Barcella (Biarritz), Vincent Debaty (Clermont), Luc Ducalcon (Castres), Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse), William Servat (Toulouse), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Franais), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Romain Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), Pascal Pape (Stade Franais), Julien Pierre (Clermont), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier), Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont)
Backs (13): Morgan Parra (Clermont), Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz), Lionel Beauxis (Toulouse), Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Yann David (Toulouse), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan), Aurelien Rougerie (Clermont), Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Julien Malzieu (Clermont), Alexis Palisson (Toulon), Maxime Medard (Toulouse), Clement Poitrenaud (Toulouse)