France go with rookie half-back pairing for New Zealand test

France have named inexperienced half-back duo Anthony Belleau and Antoine Dupont in the starting XV to face New Zealand tomorrow.

Toulouse scrum-half Dupont, 20, has been capped three times while 21-year-old Toulon fly-half Belleau will win his first cap against the All Blacks.

Wrecking-ball centre Mathieu Bastareaud returns to Les Bleus’ squad for the first time in more than two years, with his last appearance in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup where New Zealand beat France 62-13.

La Rochelle centre Geoffrey Doumayrou is set to win his first international cap along with second-row Paul Gabrillagues (Stade Francais) and flanker Judicael Cancoriet (Clermont).

After the New Zealand match at Stade de France, Les Bleus take on the All Blacks again on Tuesday before facing South Africa and Japan.

“We’ve got some maturity in midfield with Mathieu, and some speed and ardor with Geoffrey, this is what we call a good balance,” coach Guy Noves said.

“Will it be enough? Let’s see.”

New Zealand have plumped for Vaea Fifita on the blindside flank after first choice Liam Squire was too ill to play and veteran Jerome Kaino had to return home with a knee cruciate injury.

Fifita made a big impression in his first major international, scoring a match-winning try in New Zealand’s home match against Argentina during the Rugby Championship. But he is young and raw and would likely have been held back if circumstances had not forced his selection.

In other significant selections, rising star Rieko Ioane has been picked on the left wing after overcoming mumps, and Damian McKenzie returns at fullback in a leap of faith.

McKenzie has immense talent but his recent performances have been patchy and the slightly built player might also face his biggest career test against the physical French.

New Zealand’s matchday 23 features 11 players who took part in last weekend’s non-test win over the Barbarians at Twickenham. That core is bolstered by the return of senior All Blacks including captain Kieran Read, hooker Dane Coles, lock Sam Whitelock, scrumhalf Aaron Smith, and midfielders Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty.

Prop Wyatt Crockett and flanker Matt Todd also return to add strength to the bench.

Meanwhile, Darryl Marfo is one of four players set to make their debut for Scotland against Samoa on Saturday.

The Bath prop has been named in the starting XV for the first time as Gregor Townsend prepares for his first Test on home soil after taking charge of the summer tour.

George Turner, Jamie Bhatti and Chris Harris have been named on the bench for the first time, while Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray are notable inclusions following long-term injuries suffered in the summer.

England have rested Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje for tomorrow’s test against Argentina at Twickenham. 

Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson have been named on the wings after Jonny May failed to recover from a hamstring strain in time to be involved against the Pumas.


Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has expressed his sympathy for Samoan rugby after they were declared bankrupt earlier this week.

The pacific islanders were declared bankrupt by prime minister Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi ahead of their two autumn Tests, starting at Murrayfield tomorrow before they take on England.

The RFU intends to make a goodwill payment of £75,000 to the Samoan Rugby Union while it is believed the Scottish union will cover the costs of Samoa during their time in Scotland under a long-standing agreement.

“We want every country doing well, especially a nation like Samoa that has produced so many good rugby players and so many great wins over the years,” the former Glasgow man said. “Let’s hope they get through this in a much better state than they seem to be in right now.”

He added: “I believe professional rugby can and has enhanced opportunities for players in the south seas and the amount of Fijian players, Tongans and Samoans playing in Europe now at a high level has really increased over the years.

“The islanders have a real affinity with the game but their strengths as individuals are brought out. They are a huge part of the worldwide game of rugby and it’s a big challenge taking them on this week because we know how proud they are but also what a good team they are.”

FRANCE (v New Zealand): N Ducuing (Bordeaux Begles); Y Huget (Toulouse), G Doumayrou (La Rochelle), M Bastareaud (Toulon), T Thomas (Racing 92); A Belleau (Toulon), A Dupont (Toulouse); S Vahaamahina (Clermont Auvergne), J Poirot (Bordeaux Begles), G Guirado (Toulon); R Slimani (Clermont Auvergne), P Gabrillagues (Stade Francais), J Cancoriet (Clermont Auvergne), K Gourdon (La Rochelle), L Picamoles (Montpellier)

Replacements: C Maynadier, R Chaume, D Kotze, P Jedrasiak, A Jelonch, B Serin, F Trinh-Duc, D Penaud.

NEW ZEALAND (France): D McKenzie; W Naholo, R Crotty, SB Williams, R Ioane, B Barrett, A Smith; K Hames, D Coles, N Laulala; L Romano, S Whitelock; V Fifita, S Cane (50), K Read.

Replacements: C Taylor, W Crockett, O Tu’ungafasi, S Barrett, M Todd, TJ Perenara, L Sopoaga, A Lienert-Brown

WALES (v Australia): L Halfpenny (Scarlets); L Williams (Saracens), J Davies (Scarlets), O Williams (Gloucester), S Evans (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), G Davies (Scarlets); R Evans (Scarlets), K Owens (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter), J Ball (Scarlets), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt), A Shingler (Scarlets), J Navidi (Cardiff Blues), T Faletau (Bath).

Replacements: K Dacey (Cardiff Blues), N Smith (Ospreys), L Brown (Dragons), C Hill (Dragons), S Cross (Ospreys), A Davies (Scarlets), O Watkin (Ospreys), H Amos (Dragons).

AUSTRALIA (v Wales): K Beale, M Koroibete, T Kuridrani, S Kerevi, R Hodge, B Foley, W Genia; S Sio, T Polota-Nau, S Kepu; R Simmons, A Coleman, N Hanigan, M Hooper, S McMahon.

Replacements: S Moore, T Robertson, A Alaalatoa, M Philip, B McCalman, N Phipps, K Hunt, H Speight.

ENGLAND (v Argentina): M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), H Slade (Exeter), E Daly (Wasps); G Ford (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester); M Vunipola (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton, capt), D Cole (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), G Kruis (Saracens), C Robshaw (Harlequins), S Underhill (Bath), N Hughes (Wasps).

Replacements: J George (Saracens), E Genge (Leicester), H Williams (Exeter), J Launchbury (Wasps), T Curry (Sale), D Care (Harlequins), A Lozowski (Saracens), S Rokoduguni (Bath).

ARGENTINA (v England): S Garcia Botta, A Creevy, N Tetaz, M Alemanno, T Lavanini, P Matera, M Kremer; T Lezana, M Landajo, JM Hernandez, R Moyano, SI Gonzalez, M Moroni, E Boffelli, J Tuculet (all Jaguares).

Replacements: J Montoya, L Noguera Paz, E Pieretto, B Macome, L Senatore, G Bertranou, N Sanchez, S Cancelliere (all Jaguares).

SCOTLAND (v Samoa): S Hogg (Glasgow); T Seymour (Glasgow), H Jones (Glasgow), A Dunbar (Glasgow), L Jones (Glasgow); F Russell (Glasgow), A Price (Glasgow); D Marfo (Edinburgh), S McInally (Edinburgh), W Nel (Edinburgh); B Toolis (Edinburgh); J Gray (Glasgow); J Barclay (Scarlets), H Watson (Edinburgh), R Wilson (Glasgow).

Replacements: G Turner (Glasgow), J Bhatti (Glasgow), Z Fagerson (Glasgow), T Swinson (Glasgow), C Du Preez (Edinburgh), H Pyrgos (Glasgow), P Horne (Glasgow), C Harris (Newcastle).

ITALY (v Fiji): J Hayward, L Sarto, T Boni, T Castello, M Bellini, C Canna, M Violi; A Lovotti, L Bigim S Ferrari; M Fuser, D Budd; F Minto, A Steyn, S Parisse.

Replacements: L Ghiraldini, F Zani, D Chistolini, M Lazzaroni, G Licara, E Gori, I McKinley, M Minozzi.


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