Guy Noves can’t wait to see Virimi Vakatawa in action

France launch the Guy Noves coaching era today – but Les Bleus’ star attraction could be Test newcomer Virimi Vakatawa.

Guy Noves can’t wait to see Virimi Vakatawa in action

The Fiji-born sevens specialist is among four new caps selected by Noves for France’s RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy in Paris.

Centre Jonathan Danty, scrum-half Sebastien Bezy and lock Paul Jedrasiak also make their international bows, but it is 23-year-old Vakatawa’s selection that has commanded most attention.

And former Toulouse boss Noves, who took over from Philippe Saint-Andre after last autumn’s World Cup, is relishing seeing the prolific try-scorer in action.

“This is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice.

“We can’t know how things will go down on Saturday, but given the circumstances, Virimi’s potential, the fact he is a big prospect for the future, we want to see him in real game conditions rather than believing in him, hoping he could be great but never give him an opportunity. We know he has shortcomings – he has yet to fully get a grip on his role - but the sooner we play him, the better.”

While Noves embarks on his international coaching career, 62-year-old Italy boss Jacques Brunel is set to step down after this season’s Six Nations, with current Harlequins rugby director Conor O’Shea a firm favourite to succeed him. And Brunel has mirrored Noves by naming four debutants in his starting line-up - full-back David Odiete, wing Mattia Bellini, plus front-row forwards Andrea Lovotti and Ornel Gega.

Brunel said: “During the winter, after the World Cup, there were several young players who were able to shine, earning the call-up and then selection for the match against France.

“Certainly, some of our choices were dictated by injuries, of which we have a few. The number of appearances players have made at club level was also a factor, as some players seen at the World Cup went back to their foreign clubs and have not played enough.

“We have to focus on ourselves, go on the pitch with our usual ambition and a desire to impose our rugby on our opponents.”

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