Photo: The Canadian Press
MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Prop Cyril Baille has recovered from a calf injury and returns to the France team along with center Jonathan Danty for the team’s third Rugby World Cup pool game against Namibia on Thursday.
France coach Fabien Galthié had included Baille, Danty and backrower Anthony Jelonch in his initial World Cup squad, even though they were working their way back from injury.
“Jo, Cyril and Anthony are all coming back, it’s good news for us,” Galthié said. “They have been regulars in the side for the past four years. They’ve been in most of our battles, notably when we won the (Six Nations) Grand Slam in 2022. They are very important players with a lot of experience.”
Danty picked up a hamstring strain after a try-scoring appearance in the final warmup game against Australia and wins his 24th cap in Marseille.
“Our team has been built during four years of battles and Danty played an essential part in that,” Galthié said. “He brings us his power at key moments, in attack or defense.”
Baille — one of the quickest props in world rugby — will be making his 45th appearance. He last played on Aug. 12 against Scotland.
Jelonch captained Les Tricolores in the 27-12 win against Uruguay last week and remains at No. 8 with Grégory Alldritt rested and not among the reserves after feeling some knee pain during training on Monday.
Former captain Charles Ollivon is alongside fellow flanker François Cros and Jelonch in a strong back row.
The sloppy performance against Uruguay drew some heavy criticism after France had beaten three-time champion New Zealand 27-13 in the tournament’s opening game, generating a wave of euphoria.
Peato Mauvaka, who came on against the All Blacks and then against Uruguay to score his seventh international try, gets the nod ahead of Pierre Bourgarit.
Galthié has selected his first-choice halves pairing of Antoine Dupont, who returns as captain, and Matthieu Jalibert.
Louis Bielle-Biarrey keeps his spot on the left wing after scoring a try against Uruguay.
“All of his performances have been good, he deserves to wear the jersey again,” Galthié said, adding that Gabin Villière’s omission from the matchday 23 was merely to rest him.
The 20-year-old Bielle-Biarrey made his debut during the warmups in August and has not looked back, with two tries in four games so far for Les Tricolores.
“It’s evident that things are happening very fast for me, so it’s probably better if I don’t think about it too much,” he said.
Galthié’s big hitters return to the backs with veteran Gaël Fickou partnering Danty in midfield, the prolific Damian Penaud on the right wing and Thomas Ramos at fullback.
Penaud is currently enjoying a five-game try-scoring streak, the longest of his career. He has 30 tries overall for France — including nine this season — and is looking to become the first Frenchman to score 10 tries in a calendar year since Phillipe Saint-André scored 12 in 1995.
Ramos is averaging 17 points per game in 2023, and has not missed more than two kicks at goal in a single test this season.
Danty’s return sees Yoram Moefana drop to the reserves along with fullback Melvyn Jaminet, who kicked against Uruguay. Baptiste Couilloud takes over from Maxime Lucu and provides cover at scrumhalf as one of three backs.
Namibia lost 52-8 to Italy and was overwhelmed 71-3 by the All Blacks.
France: Thomas Ramos, Damian Penaud, Gaël Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont (captain); Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, François Cros, Thibaud Flament, Cameron Woki, Uini Atonio, Peato Mauvaka, Cyril Baille. Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Réda Wardi, Dorian Aldegheri, Romain Taofifenua, Paul Boudehent, Baptiste Couilloud, Yoram Moefana, Melvyn Jaminet.
AP Rugby World Cup: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby