He will compete for a starting place in Japan with Grégory Alldritt, who is less physical but brings much greater mobility and a genuine try-scoring threat. Two players initially named among the reserves, the speedy prop Cyril Baille and flanker Charles Ollivon, impressed Brunel in recent friendly matches and made a 31-man squad which has a 17-14 split between forwards and backs.
Versatile flyhalf Anthony Belleau was involved during the Six Nations but missed out this time. Instead, Brunel went for the highly promising Romain Ntamack alongside Camille Lopez, whose international career under Brunel appeared to be over after he criticized team strategy and decision-making following a 44-8 Six Nations defeat away to England in February.
The 20-year-old Ntamack made a good impression for France at the Six Nations, despite difficult circumstances and a chronic lack of a running game in the side. He now joins his father — the former winger Emile Ntamack — in playing at the World Cup.
Ntamack is likely to share kicking duties with Lopez, with both having taken penalties for France before. Veteran Maxime Médard is vying for the starting position at fullback with Thomas Ramos, while Fiji-born Clermont winger Alivereti Raka contests a starting berth with the pacey Yoann Huget and the burly Damian Penaud.
As expected, 70-cap hooker Guilhem Guirado continues as Brunel's captain in a revamped — and revitalized — coaching set up. After another poor Six Nations under Brunel, former standout scrumhalf Fabien Galthié was hired as his assistant. The backroom team has been streamlined to greatly increase player fitness, improve the tactical approach, and make France far less predictable in attack than in recent years.
There have been signs of improvement in recent friendly matches, although France remains weak in certain areas such as attacking rucks and still too often concedes points quickly after scoring them. France ran in six tries in a 47-19 win against Italy; lost 17-14 away to Scotland, and beat the Scots 32-3 at home.
Three-time World Cup runner-up France begins its World Cup campaign against Argentina in Tokyo on Sept. 21, and also faces 2003 champion England, the United States and Tonga in Pool C.
France: Forwards: Jefferson Poirot, Rabah Slimani, Demba Bamba, Emerick Setiano, Cyril Baille, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Camille Chat, Peato Mauvaka, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Paul Gabrillagues, Arthur Iturria, Bernard Le Roux, Grégory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Louis Picamoles, Yacouba Camara, Wenceslas Lauret (Racing 92). Backs: Antoine Dupont, Baptiste Serin, Maxime Machenaud, Camille Lopez, Romain Ntamack, Gaël Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Sofiane Guitoune, Virimi Vakatawa, Yoann Huget, Alivereti Raka, Damian Penaud, Maxime Médard, Thomas Ramos.
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