Rugby

Maxime Lucu to start in place of Antoine Dupont in France’s Six Nations opener

Fabien Galthie’s starting XV shows five changes from Les Bleus’ World Cup exit to South Africa.

Maxime Lucu (pictured) has taken the place of Antoine Dupont
Maxime Lucu celebrates for France Maxime Lucu (pictured) has taken the place of Antoine Dupont (Nick Potts/PA)

France scrum-half Maxime Lucu will start in place of the absent Antoine Dupont for Friday evening’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Ireland.

Fabien Galthie’s starting XV shows five changes from the team which began Les Bleus’ 29-28 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to South Africa on October 15.

With Dupont missing the tournament in order to focus on sevens ahead of this year’s Paris Olympics, understudy Lucu will partner Bordeaux team-mate Matthieu Jalibert for the championship curtain-raiser in Marseille.

Uncapped Racing 92 scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec, 21, will provide cover for Lucu from the bench at Stade Velodrome.

Yoram Moefana is preferred to Louis Bielle-Biarrey on the left wing, while Paul Gabrillagues and Paul Willemse are Galthie’s new lock pairing.

Francois Cros replaces the injured Anthony Jelonch at blindside flanker in the other alteration.

La Rochelle number eight Gregory Alldritt has taken on the captaincy from Dupont, who was named player of the championship in three of the past four years.

France scrum-half Antoine Dupont will miss the 2024 Guinness Six Nations
France scrum-half Antoine Dupont will miss the 2024 Guinness Six Nations France scrum-half Antoine Dupont will miss the 2024 Guinness Six Nations (Adam Davy/PA)

Cyril Baille, hooker Peato Mauvaka and Uini Atonio continue in an unchanged front row, with new skipper Alldritt joined at the back of the pack by flankers Cros and Charles Ollivon.

Behind the half-back pairing of Lucu and Jalibert are centres Jonathan Danty and Gael Fickou, while Damian Penaud, who scored six tries at the World Cup, lines up on the right wing and Thomas Ramos starts at full-back.

Le Garrec and Bielle-Biarrey are joined among the replacements by Julien Marchand, Reda Wardi, Dorian Aldegheri, Romain Taofifenua, Cameron Woki and Paul Boudehent.

France went on to clinch the Grand Slam after beating Ireland 30-24 in Paris two years ago.

Current title holders Ireland avenged that defeat 12 months ago with a 32-19 Dublin win en route to a tournament clean sweep.

France team: T Ramos (Toulouse); D Penaud (Bordeaux), G Fickou (Racing 92), J Danty (La Rochelle), Y Moefana (Bordeaux); M Jalibert (Bordeaux), M Lucu (Bordeaux); C Baille (Toulouse), P Mauvaka (Toulouse), U Atonio (La Rochelle), P Gabrillagues (Stade Francais), P Willemse (Montpellier), F Cros (Toulouse), C Ollivon (Toulon), G Alldritt (La Rochelle, capt).

Replacements: J Marchand (Toulouse), R Wardi (La Rochelle), D Aldegheri (Toulouse), R Taofifenua (Lyon), C Woki (Racing 92), P Boudehent (La Rochelle), N Le Garrec (Racing 92), L Bielle-Biarrey (Bordeaux).