Six Nations preview - France

Last Updated: 01/02/14 10:03am

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France picked up the wooden spoon in last year's Six Nations, the low point of a miserable 2013 that saw them win just two of 11 Tests.

Head coach Philippe Saint-Andre took charge after France reached the 2011 World Cup final and has since overseen a period of rebuilding in which results have suffered.

The pressure is on Saint-Andre to deliver results but his cause is not helped by the loss of captain Thierry Dusautoir - one of the best flankers in the world - for the entire tournament with a ruptured bicep tendon. Stade Francais lock Pascal Pape will lead the side in Dusautoir's absence.

Experienced scrum-half and first-choice goal kicker Morgan Parra was left out of the preliminary squad but could feature in later rounds if he proves his return to fitness.

The same goes for wing Vincent Clerc, who recently made his comeback for Toulouse and centre Florian Fritz, sidelined by an arm injury suffered in a motorbike accident.

The No 10 position has been a revolving door on Saint-Andre's watch. Last season's starter Frederic Michalak has fallen out of favour and Castres' Remi Tales - who failed to overly impress during the autumn - will miss the tournament opener against England in Paris with a bicep problem.

Montpellier's Francois Trinh-Duc has been called up to replace Tales and will compete with Toulouse's Jean-Marc Doussain and uncapped Stade Francais prospect Jules Plisson for the No 10 jersey.

France

Last season: 6th
Head coach: Philippe Saint-Andre: "We don't start with a starter: we start with the main course, Les Rosbifs straight away. When you finish bottom in 2013 it's difficult to say you are favourites in 2014, Wales and England are still the favourites. Last year it was very painful because small details make the difference. I just believe in this squad, in these young players."
Captain: Pascal Pape: "To fill in some positions in the team can become very difficult indeed. My club (Stade Francais) trusts home-grown players and that's important, and I wish more did the same. Other clubs don't, it's a shame and it impacts on the national side. It is something that we could really do with changing."
Ground: Stade de France, Paris
Sky Bet odds: 11/4
Fixtures: Feb 1 v England (h), Feb 9 v Italy (h), Feb 21 v Wales (a), Mar 8 v Scotland (a), Mar 15 v Ireland (h)

Key man: Wesley Fofana

Key man: Wesley Fofana: An instant success in Test rugby, scoring a try in each of his first four Tests following his debut against Italy in the 2012 Six Nations. After a spell on the wing, Fofana is now established at inside centre for France, a position from which he can showcase his full range of skills. Approaching the peak of his powers at 26, he has a strong case as the outstanding back in the entire tournament. What really stands out is the footwork and agility, allowing him to shift defences off balance and then accelerate away.

Squad:
Forwards (15): T Domingo (Clermont), Y Forestier (Castres), B Kayser (Clermont), D Szarzewski (Racing Metro), N Mas (Montpellier), R Slimani, A Flanquart (both Stade Francais), Y Maestri (Toulouse), P Pape (Stade Francais), S Vahaamahina (Perpignan), A Burban (Stade Francais), B Le Roux (Racing Metro), Y Nyanga (Toulouse), D Chouly (Clermont), L Picamoles (Toulouse)
Backs (13): JM Doussain (Toulouse), M Machenaud (Racing Metro), J Plisson (Stade Francais), Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Bastareaud (Toulon), G Fickou (Toulouse), W Fofana (Clermont), M Mermoz (Toulon), Y Huget, M Medard (both Toulouse), G Palis (Castres), H Bonneval (Stade Francais), B Dulin (Castres)

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