Australia, concerned France, ready for 1st of 3 rugby tests
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) – It hasn’t been ideal preparation for France ahead of the first rugby test against the Wallabies on Wednesday.
The French spent two weeks in forced quarantine by COVID-19 at a Sydney hotel with limited outdoor access for training and were only planning to arrive in Brisbane on Tuesday evening. The team has 21 unselected players and the half-stars Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack are missing.
Former French captain and now managing director Raphael Ibanez said preparation had been difficult, including building his own gym in the hotel parking lot.
“Australian rugby did their best to accommodate us, but on the rugby side there is no doubt that it has had an impact on the preparation,” said Ibanez. “They might get a quick view of the stadium. . . it’s not really (like anything I’ve come across before) but like I told players you have to expect anything and be ready for anything.
France have already played five tests this year in the Six Nations tournament, taking three wins and finishing second behind Wales.
“Our domestic season (Top 14) was probably the longest ever and we had no choice but to leave some key players at home,” Ibanez said of the Australian squad. “The goal now is to turn this problem into an opportunity, but we believe we have enough talent to compete with the best. “
French coach Fabien Galthie has named two players ready to make their test debuts for Wednesday’s game. Missing most of his premier squad, Galthie picked as much experience as possible with only fullback Melvyn Jaminet and hooker Gaetan Barlot to make their debut.
Jaminet, 22, has not even played in the French Top 14 yet. There are five potential newbies on the reserve bench.
“The players have everything to gain,” said Galthie. “This is an opportunity for many to assert themselves, to reveal themselves, and to take a place in the … XV of France two and a half years before the World Cup.”
Australia coach David Rennie said on Monday that Jake Gordon and Noah Lolesio will form a new halves combination for the Suncorp Stadium game.
Gordon overcame a knee injury to beat Tate McDermott for the vacant running back jersey with regular starter Nic White sidelined. And with James O’Connor also injured, Lolesio gets his second start after making his opening tryout debut last year against the All Blacks when Australia were beaten 43-5.
Gordon, captain of the New South Wales Waratahs, injured his knee in the penultimate match of the Trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, putting him in doubt for the France series.
Rennie named four potential Wallabies debutants on the bench – hooker Lachlan Lonergan, lock Darcy Swain, center Len Ikitau and utility back Andrew Kellaway.
Rennie said the team have had good preparation for the France Series, which will be over in just 11 days with the second test in Melbourne on July 13 before the final test in Brisbane again on July 17.
“The whole team has been training really hard over the past three weeks to prepare for what is going to be an exciting and difficult series against the French,” said Rennie.
Australia: James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Allan Alaalatoa, Matt Philip, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (captain), Harry Wilson, Jake Gordon, Noah Lolesio, Marika Koroibete, Matt To’omua, Hunter Paisami, Tom Wright, Tom Banks. Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Darcy Swain, Isi Naisarani, Tate McDermott, Len Ikitau, Andrew Kellaway.
France: Jean-Baptise Gros, Gaetan Barlot, Demba Bamba, Killian Geraci, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Anthony Jelonch (captain), Sekou Macalou, Baptise Couilloud, Louis Carbonel, Gabin Villière, Jonathan Danty, Arthur Vincent, Damian Penaud, Melvyn Jaminet. Reserves: Anthony Etrillard, Quentin Walcker, Sipili Falatea, Florent Vanverberghe, Baptiste Pesenti, Cameron Woki, Teddy Iribaren, Anthony Bouthier
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