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France are and always have been a juggernaut of world rugby. Through many decades, during the peak years of the likes of Serge Blanco, Phillipe Sainte-Andre and Phillipe Sella, they have dominated their peers at club and international level, appearing in the very first World Cup Final in 1987 and featuring in two more since.
However, Les Bleus have never been able to finish the job and experience the elation of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup and officially calling themselves the best in the world.
France World Cup 2023 squad – can they go all the way?
- 1 France World Cup 2023 squad – can they go all the way?
- 2 France’s form ahead of the World Cup
- 3 France’s World Cup 2023 odds – 3/1 (4.00)
- 4 France World Cup group and schedule
That may change this year, however. Many fans and pundits alike believe that this is the greatest French squad ever assembled and, headlined by for former World Player of the Year, Antoine Dupont, the team to finally shake the France Rugby World Cup voodoo. And what better place to do it than in their own capital city?
So who are the 33 on the brink of making history and what are the odds that France can achieve what generations before them have failed to do?
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) August 21, 2023
The only surprise here is the omission of Demba Bamba at tighthead who is ousted by Aldegheri and Falatea. The common theme for Galthie’s front row is power combined by mobility, two traits firmly encapsulated by the six chosen props, particularly the world class Baille and Antonio who will likely start for Les Bleus.
- Pierre Bourgarit – La Rochelle
- Julien Marchand – Toulouse
- Peato Mauvaka – Toulouse
Galthie has been consistent with his chosen trio of hookers over the last two years and the World Cup will be no exception. Bourgarit has been one of the stars of the back-to-back Champions Cup winning La Rochelle team, while the Toulouse teammates Marchand and Mauvaka are as devastating on the international stage as they are in the Top 14.
- Thibaud Flament – Toulouse
- Romain Taofifenua – Lyon
- Paul Willemse – Montpellier
- Cameron Woki – Racing 92
A perfect cataclysm of players reaching the peak of their careers at precisely the right time. Former Wasps squad player Flament has evolved into one of the globe’s very best locks to the surprise of many after reinventing himself at Toulouse.
Meanwhile, Woki is ready to make the jump from a player with limitless potential to one who utterly dominates on the world stage and Willemse is commonly labelled as the world’s best tighthead lock.
— France Rugby (@FranceRugby) August 21, 2023
- Grégory Alldritt – La Rochelle
- Paul Boudehent – La Rochelle
- François Cros – Toulouse)
- Anthony Jelonch – Toulouse
- Sekou Macalou – Stade Français
- Charles Ollivon – Toulon
In an area of extreme squad depth, plenty of remarkable talent is left to watch from their sofas as Anthony Jelonch makes a miraculous recovery to seize a place in the squad when many had written off his World Cup chances following a cruciate ligament injury in February.
Yoan Tanga and Dylan Cretin are two big names who miss out as La Rochelle’s Boudehent evidently thoroughly impressed during the World Cup warmups, where he earned his three first caps.
- Antoine Dupont – Toulouse
- Maxime Lucu – Bordeaux-Begles
- Baptiste Couilloud – Lyon
France’s poster boy and ‘Le Petit Generale’, Dupont, writes himself onto any teamsheet. However, Lucu and Couilloud no doubt had a nervous several days before the announcement as the consummately talented Nolan Le Garrec and Baptiste Serin are cruelly omitted after running into stunning form at club and international level this year.
- Antoine Hastoy – La Rochelle
- Matthieu Jalibert – Bordeaux-Begles
Romain Ntamack will be a huge loss for France, the loss of one of the world’s best fly half’s and Dupont’s right hand man will be a huge dent to France’s hopes of winning the tournament, however, Galthie selects two replacements more than capable of filling his shoes.
Hastoy was instrumental in the Champions Cup Final defeat of Leinster while Jalibert has had to understudy for Ntamack for far too long for someone of his talent.
- Jonathan Danty – La Rochelle
- Gaël Fickou – Racing 92
- Yoram Moefana – Bordeaux-Bègles
- Arthur Vincent – Montpellier
The 20-year-old Junior Six Nations sensation Emilien Gailleton just misses out as Danty and Vincent regain fitness at just the right time, both of whom were hugely influential in the Grand Slam win in 2022.
- Louis Bielle-Biarrey – Bordeaux-Bègles
- Damian Penaud – Bordeaux-Bègles
- Gabin Villière – Toulon
- Melvyn Jaminet – Toulouse
- Thomas Ramos – Toulouse
The wingers feature the most unlikely of fairy-tale stories as 20-year-old Bielle-Biarrey is withheld from attending the Junior World Cup to be play at the biggest tournament of all, beating Lyon’s Ethan Dumourtier, who scored twice in this year’s Six Nations, to a place in the squad.
Amongst the fullbacks, a Toulouse two-some sees La Rochelle’s Brice Dulin unlucky to miss out.
Key Players – Antoine Dupont, Damian Penaud
If you want to lump a sum on who will win player of the tournament, top try scorer or you’re just an avid fantasy player, you need not look further than Antoine Dupont. He may just be the best player of all time, entering his prime, like a Lionel Messi at Barcelona or Ronaldo in Madrid, France will look to him to both run the game and create moments of magic.
Elsewhere, Damian Penaud is another magician on the wing, he can score from anywhere on the pitch and has no hesitation in conjuring a high risk play if he thinks he can pull it off.
Key Absentees – Romain Ntamack, Emmanuel Meafou
France luckily only have one big loss through injury, however, is it a fairly sizeable one. Regarded by many as the best 10 in the world, Ntamack has been pulling France’s strings since he won the Junior World Cup in 2018. His knee injury in the 30-27 warmup victory over Scotland will test France’s depth if they hope to go all the way, however, Hastoy and Jalibert are bonified test fly halves in their own right.
Due to France having no other notable injuries, there only other significant omission is Toulouse lock Emmanuel Meafou who Fabien Galthie had hoped would be eligible for France for the 2023 RWC but is it. Meafou, who is New Zealand born with Australian heritage, won the Top 14 with Toulouse this year and is widely regarded as one of the best locks in the world and possibly the missing piece of the puzzle for France.
France’s form ahead of the World Cup
Les Bleus have only lost twice in the past two calendar years. After winning the Grand Slam in 2022 they won four out of five in this years Six Nations, only falling to Ireland in Dublin. They won three of their four warmup matches, only losing to Scotland in Murrayfield with a rotated team.
Last five matches:
- France 41- 17 Australia
- France 34-17 Fiji
- France 30-27 Scotland
- Scotland 25-21 France
- France 41-28 Wales
France’s World Cup 2023 odds – 3/1 (4.00)
Despite their incredible form and home court advantage, France sit in close second in the odds to win it all. With odds of 3/1, group stage rivals New Zealand take the favourites tag.
France World Cup group and schedule
France is in a tough group with New Zealand and Italy, with the other two teams being Namibia and Uruguay.
- 08/09/2023 at 20:15 GMT vs New Zealand
- 14/09/2023 at 20:00 GMT vs Uruguay
- 21/09/2023 at 20:00 GMT vs Namibia
- 6/10/2023 at 20:00 GMT vs Italy
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