Raphael Lakafia and Racing pair boost French squad

Brice Dulin: Called up after impressive display for Racing 92.

France have called up Stade Français back-row Raphael Lakafia to replace Damien Chouly ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Ireland.

Chouly, 31, came on to replace flanker Loann Goujon in France’s 22-16 victory over Scotland at the Stade de France last Sunday, but picked up an ankle sprain in training yesterday, ruling him out of the trip to Dublin.

Goujon was ruled out of the rest of the Six Nations last week, following the head injury he sustained against Scotland.

Clermont back-rower Chouly has 45 caps for France and started in their opening 19-16 defeat to England at Twickenham.

As well as the addition of Lakafia, France have also called up Racing 92 pair Brice Dulin and Henry Chavancy as part of a 31-man squad ahead of the match with Ireland. Full-back Dulin was overlooked by Guy Noves in France’s initial Six Nations squad, but has been added following an eye-catching display in Racing’s 33-25 Top 14 win over Brive on Saturday.

Racing centre Chavancy, who has yet to feature for France in his career, had initially been called up last month to replace Wesley Fofana after the Clement centre injured his Achilles tendon.

Chavancy was forced to withdraw himself a day later, however, following injury, paving the way for the return of Toulon’s Mathieu Bastareaud.

Chavancy, 28, has now been restored to the France squad, having overcome his complaint.

France started their campaign with a 19-16 defeat by England at Twickenham, before beating Scotland 22-16 at home.

Meanwhile, Giorgio Bronzini insists Italy’s work will pay off, but admits they will have to be patient under new coach Conor O’Shea.

The Azzurri have lost both of their RBS 6 Nations matches this season and travel to Twickenham to take on Grand Slam champions England in round three.

Bronzini started for Italy in November, including their historic win over South Africa, but has been used off the bench so far in the championship, with Edoardo Gori given the starting nod due to his greater experience.

While the team have struggled for results in their first two games, Bronzini is confident they will be stronger for the work being put in now.

He said: “We’re always working hard. With O’Shea, we have started a new path which, as he says, will bear fruit in one, two, or three years.

“This is a transition period, while the others are benefiting from the work of years gone by. It requires a lot of mental strength. The coach is telling us not to look at the newspapers and to be positive. We have to believe and keep training hard.”

O’Shea has started working with the two Guinness PRO12 teams and the Eccellenza sides, because that is the journey a player takes before they reach the national team.

“Test matches are the chance to experiment, but in the RBS 6 Nations the coach wants to go with Gori, who is more experienced than me, as you can see by his 55 caps to my five, but I’m happy to be involved with Italy, even if I’d like to play more.”

Michele Rizzo has been called up by Italy to replace the injured Dario Chistolini in their squad.

FRANCE SQUAD (v Ireland):

Uini Atonio, Cyril Baille, Eddy Ben Arous, Djibril Camara, Camille Chat, Gaël Fickou, Kevin Gourdon, Guilhem Guirado, Yoann Huget, Paul Jedrasiak, Raphaël Lakafia, Rémi Lamerat, Julien Le Devedec, Bernard Le Roux, Camille Lopez, Maxime Machenaud, Yoann Maestri, Noa Nakaitaci, Louis Picamoles, Baptiste Serin, Rabah Slimani, Scott Spedding, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Virimi Vakatawa.

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