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France: Five to watch this summer

France: Five to watch this summer

Emilien Gailleton

France began their Summer Nations Series campaign with a loss to Scotland last weekend with Fabien Galthié fielding several fresh faces at Scottish Gas Murrayfield.

A 25-21 defeat in Edinburgh does not tell the whole story, as Les Bleus’ fresh faces largely stood up to the test of a far more experienced opponent before falling late on.

This weekend in Saint-Etienne, France play the came opponent as the build-up to hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup continues.

With that countdown almost up, here is a look at five players hoping to make an impression during the Summer Nations Series and seal their place in this autumn’s squad.

Émilien Gailleton

In a short space of time, Émilien Gailleton has become one of the brightest emerging stars in French rugby.

Born in Croydon to an English mother and French father, Gailleton was the top try scorer in the Top 14 last season for Pau, crossing the whitewash on 14 occasions as his club finished 12th.

At just 20, Gailleton could well have been starring for his country in South Africa at the World Rugby U20s Championship, but instead chose to push for World Cup selection and made his debut against Scotland last weekend when he started at outside centre.

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Captaining France U20 in this year’s edition of the U20 Six Nations, Gailleton combined to devastating effect with Louis Bielle-Biarrey to run a try in from their own half and show that the wealth of talent available to Fabien Galthie is indeed never-ending.

Louis Bielle-Biarrey

After mentioning Gailleton, it would be almost unfair not to mention a second 20-year-old debutant from last weekend’s outing in Edinburgh.

Bordeaux’s Bielle-Biarrey is another youngster that enjoyed a good club campaign and may well be finding himself in contention for a Rugby World Cup spot.

Scoring a try on his debut may well be a sign of things to come from a player that started two of his three U20 Six Nations games this year at full-back.

It is fair to say that Bielle-Biarrey faces an uphill battle to gain selection for the World Cup, with the likes of Damian Penaud, Gabin Villiere and Ethan Dumortier all being considered for selection, but after a strong first outing, you cannot rule the youngster out.

Yoan Tanga

After making his France debut a year ago in Japan, Yoan Tanga made his third appearance for his country last weekend against Scotland.

Playing the full 80 minutes as his side gave up a lead late on to Gregor Townsend’s team, the 26-year-old has emerged as the natural back-up to Gregory Alldritt in the No.8 slot.

Both were teammates at Stade Rochelais, but it took Tanga’ move to Racing 92 to allow the back row to showcase his talents as the main man.

With the ball in hand, Tanga can be used to devastating effect. Extremely athletic and physical, the back row’s size makes him a difficult proposition for defenders, while on the opposite side of the ball, the 26-year-old is an astute defender and handy at the breakdown.

Brice Dulin

When making his first appearance for France in over two years against Scotland, Brice Dulin was named as captain by Fabien Galthié.

Out on the pitch for the duration of the fixture, Dulin did not look out of place on his return to Test rugby. Making 141 metres while carrying the ball, the 33-year-old was an experienced head in a new-look back line.

More than comfortable playing Test rugby, Dulin has the added virtue of experience in contrast to Stade Toulousain duo Melvyn Jaminet and Thomas Ramos, who are also contending for selection this weekend.

Baptiste Couilloud

In a world where Antoine Dupont has been the undisputed starting scrum-half for his country, it is at times difficult to consider the other quality options available to Fabien Galthié.

Maxime Lucu has largely been called on as Dupont’s supporting act in recent years, while Baptiste Serin got a recall to the national side this summer. But, after a fine individual performance against Scotland, Couilloud has put a cat amongst the pigeons.

For much of the past three years, the 25-year-old has been in frankly frightening form for his club side, Lyon. Only having 12 caps to his name, in a different era it is entirely conceivable that the Couilloud may have far more Test match experience.

Another positive showing this weekend in Saint-Etienne could do Couilloud the world of good with Rugby World Cup selection drawing ever closer.

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