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6 Nations

What would a France 23 look like if it made sense?

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Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Trying to predict a France team selection is often like trying to predict the weather; Often you think have it sussed out, but then the day comes and it is not what you expected at all. What would a France team look like if they cared about cohesion? Or tried to build partnerships? Or played players in their best positions?

Front Row: Dany Priso, Guilhelm Guirado, Uini Atonio

Locking down the scrum we have one of the best scrummaging looseheads in Europe; La Rochelle’s Dany Priso. On the tighthead side is the largest man in rugby Uini Atonio, and the man in the middle is captain fantastic, and France’s most important player, Guilhelm Guirado

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Second Row: Arthur Iturria, Paul Jedrasiak

An all Clermont pairing. Arthur Iturria was one of the stars of France’s defeat to Wales. The Clermont man made 24m from 5 carries, made 9 tackles and threw three offloads. Paul Jedrasiak will bring some much needed “dog” to the French pack.

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Back Row: Sekou Macalou, Yacouba Camara, Louis Picamoles

Number 8 should be one of the first names on the team sheet: Louis Picamoles. The Montpellier 8 is one of France’s most consistent performers. On the flanks are speed demon Sekou Macalou, and all-action Montpellier flanker Yacouba Camara

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Half-Backs: Antoine Dupont, Camille Lopez

If there is one thing that French rugby does well, it’s a lively scrum half. Baptiste Serin, Baptiste Couilloud, are both fantastic players, but Toulouse 9 Antoine Dupont is the best of the lot. France have struggled for consistency for their out-halves in recent years, but when he’s been fit, Clermont 10 Camille Lopez has performed quite well for France.

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Midfield: Wesley Fofana, Gael Fickou

He may be made of glass, but there is few players centres classier than Wesley Fofana. He made his long awaited return to international rugby last weekend, and it was like he had never left. Romain Ntamack is likely the future of the French midfield, and the man to fill in if Fofana can’t stay fit. Fickou is France’s best 13, and one of the biggest losers in the persistent selection of Mathieu Bastareaud. Fickou probably has as much caps on the wing as he does in midfield

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Back Three: Gabriel Lacroix, Thomas Ramos, Alivereti Raka

A left-field pick for one of the wing spots – La Rochelle wing Gabriel Lacroix. Lacroix was on the verge of the France XV in 2017, making one appearance before an ACL injury put a stop to his 2018. If he can get back in form, he should add to his single cap. Thomas Ramos has been a star for Toulouse at full-back this year, even making the odd appearance at 10. He will be hoping to get some action off the bench in Twickenham this weekend. Right wing goes to Clermont’s big Fijian Alivereti Raka. Raka has been ripping it up for Clermont but some poorly timed injuries mean that he is still waiting to make his debut for the national team. He has recently become a French citizen.

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  1. Dany Priso
  2. Guilhelm Guirado
  3. Uini Atonio
  4. Arthur Iturria
  5. Paul Jedrasiak
  6. Sekou Macalou
  7. Yacouba Camara
  8. Louis Picamoles  16. Pierre Bourgarit
  9. Antoine Dupont          17. Jefferson Poirot
  10. Camille Lopez             18. Demba Bamba
  11. Gabriel Lacroix            19. Felix Lambey
  12. Wesley Fofana             20. Marco Tauleigne
  13. Gael Fickou                 21. Baptiste Serin
  14. Alivereti Raka              22. Romain Ntamack
  15. Thomas Ramos            23. Damian Penaud

6 Nations

Rory Best to retire.

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best has confirmed that he will retire from professional rugby when his current contract expires after the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Best will bow out with a hugely impressive list of honours and will go down as a legend of the modern game, having spent 15 seasons at the top level.

Rory began his rugby development at Banbridge RFC, with whom he is still involved, while he also played at Portadown College and Belfast Harlequins RFC on route to the professional game.

He made his competitive debut for Ulster in 2004 and has amassed 219 appearances to date, scoring 23 tries. He was a key member of the squad which won the Celtic League title in 2005/06.

Best is Ulster’s most-capped international with 116 appearances (10 tries) and has helped Ireland win the Six Nations Championship on four occasions, including two Grand Slam successes (one as captain).

Best’s leadership of Ireland is record-breaking; he captained Ireland to its first ever win against New Zealand in 2016 and has steered the country to second in the world rankings.

He was a member of the British & Irish Lions squad for the 2013 and 2017 tours to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Best was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to rugby.

“It is with mixed feelings that I announce my retirement from Ulster Rugby as of the end of this season,” said Best.

“This feels like the right time for me to go out on my terms, a luxury for which I feel very privileged.

“I am very excited for the end of the season with Ulster Rugby and for the upcoming World Cup with Ireland, both of which I hope to finish with a massive high, playing at the top of my game.

“In my 15 years at this brilliant club, I have been lucky to have met, played alongside, been coached by and supported by many great people, and I would like to thank every individual for the time they have invested in me since 2004.

“I grew up supporting Ulster Rugby, have been fortunate to play and captain Ulster Rugby, and now look forward to supporting Ulster Rugby in the future with my family.”

Paying tribute to Best, Ulster’s Operations Director, Bryn Cunningham said:

“No player representing Ulster Rugby has had a more profound impact in the professional era than Rory.

“When Rory enters the room, everyone waits for his words. On the training pitch, he demands high standards at all times. During a match, players turn to Rory for leadership and direction. He has been our all-encompassing talismanic figure for more than a decade.

“Rory’s ability to not only stay at the top, but also fight his way through adversity, shows the strength of character he possesses.

“The ever-present support of the Best family on the side-lines, in particular Jodie, Ben, Penny and Richie, encapsulates Rory as the ultimate family man. We know that they will continue to follow Ulster Rugby for many years to come.

“Rory will justifiably go down as one of the greatest legends of Ulster and Irish Rugby.”

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6 Nations

Richards Claims 2003 World Cup Winners Cheated, Woodward Denies

Dean Richards has made some serious accusations to the RFU.

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Former Harlequins director of rugby and ‘Bloodgate’ scandal Dean Richards told the RFU that England’s 2003 World Cup winners cheated in a report.

He claims that his Harlequins side were not the only team using fake injuries to win games and that the World Cup winners were doing so too.

The document, which was uncovered by a documentary on talkSPORT revealed what Richards had said.

“The use of fake blood, cutting players, re-opening wounds, feigning injury in the front row, jabbing players with anaesthetic all occur regularly throughout the game,” he said.

When asked about giving examples by former RFU head of discipline Jeff Blackett he accused the English team.

“RWC 2003. England used faked blood,” he said.

Richards, who was banned from rugby for three years in 2009 for his part in the scandal in which players used fake blood to be taken off as blood substitutions has been shut down by 2003 coach Clive Woodward.

“This is simply not true. I am not sure why Dean raised this. I have never been involved in anything like this. It is ridiculous,” he said.

He also said that the claim was “absolute nonsense”.

It appears as though the RFU have nothing to worry about this time around as it seems like Richards is trying to stir the pot once more in the rugby world.

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6 Nations

French Rugby rule out foreign coach.

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Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

It’s been well documented that current French Coach Jacques Brunel will be vacating his role with the FFR post World Cup in Japan later this year and with all confirmed exits, speculation is always rife as to who will step up and take the role.

One thing that was confirmed this week was that the next head coach of France will not be Warren Gatland, Joe Schmidt, Eddie Jones – or any other overseas coach that has been linked with the top job in French Rugby.

This decision was made following a referendum of the country’s amateur rugby clubs which ruled out a non-Frenchman taking charge.

59% of the clubs voted with a view that they would not support the appointment of a foreigner to replace Jacques Brunel after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

French Federation president Bernard Laporte has promised to respect the result.

“I welcome this democratic expression and of course I will respect that choice,”

Several names have been linked with the job. Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt who have both coached their last 6 Nations games with Wales & Ireland respectively would be shrewd appointments as would Sir Clive Woodward and John Mitchell were also thought to be on the FFR’s shortlist. Current Montpellier boss Vern Cotter – was also expected to be a contender but he too will now not be considered for the role.

Rumours are still strong regarding Ronan O’Gara taking some sort of coaching role with the FFR pre Rugby World Cup but nothing official has been announced to date.

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