Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud has been recalled to France’s preliminary RBS 6 Nations squad but there is no place for Toulouse winger Maxime Medard.
Bastareaud, 24, has not featured in the last two Six Nations tournaments after being part of his side’s Grand Slam success in 2010.
But his impressive performances for his club have earned him a place as one of four centres and will battle for a place with incumbent starters Florian Fritz and Maxime Mermoz as well as Toulouse’s Gael Fickou.
The 33-man group is headed up by new captain Pascal Pape. The Stade Francais second-rower takes over the reins from Thierry Dusautoir, who has been included in the squad after missing the autumn internationals with a knee injury but will be spared the extra responsibility of the leadership.
Coach Philippe Saint-Andre told L’Equipe: “Thierry can take time to recover from his injury and think about himself, having always had to think about the group.”
Dusautoir forms part of a formidable group of back-row players, with Saint-Andre also able to call on Yannick Nyanga, Louis Picamoles, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Damien Chouly and Wenceslas Lauret.
The experienced William Servat misses out on a front-row place, with Saint-Andre explaining: “We know what he brings and what he has achieved, but we are also looking to the future.”
Medard, like Dusautoir, is on his way back from injury and though he was offered hope for the future, he will have to wait for a recall after missing much of last year with knee ligament damage.
“Maxime has made a good return to action but Jean-Marcellin (Buttin) plays more often in the 15,” said Saint-Andre.
“Of course, we will continue to follow Max Medard but we know he will need time to recover after an injury like his.”
Saint-Andre will announce his final squad on January 28.
France provisional squad for RBS 6 Nations:
Forwards: V Debaty (Clermont), T Domingo (Clermont), Y Forestier (Castres), B Kayser (Clermont), G Guirado (Perpignan), D Szarzewski (Racing Metro), D Attoub (Stade Francais), L Ducalcon (Racing Metro), N Mas (Perpignan), Y Maestri (Toulouse), P Pape (captain, Stade Francais), J Suta (Toulon), R Taofifenua (Perpignan), D Chouly (Clermont), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), W Lauret (Biarritz), Y Nyanga (Toulouse), F Ouedrogo (Montpellier), L Picamoles (Toulouse).
Backs: M Machenaud (Racing Metro), M Parra (Clermont), F Michalak (Toulon), F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Bastareaud (Toulon), J-M Buttin (Clermont), V Clerc (Toulouse), B Dulin (Castres), B Fall (Racing Metro), G Fickou (Toulouse), W Fofana (Clermont), F Fritz (Toulouse), Y Huget (Toulouse), M Mermoz (Toulon).