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Penaud and Dupont passed fit for France's quarter-final showdown with Wales

Jacques Brunel has made just one change to the side which began in such impressive fashion against Argentina.

Penaud in training.
Penaud in training.
Image: Christophe Ena

FRANCE STARS DAMIAN Penaud and Antoine Dupont have shrugged off injury worries to take their place in Les Bleus’ team for Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Wales.

Electric wing Penaud (lower stomach) and livewire scrum-half Dupont (back) take their place in a starting XV that will be captained by hooker Guilhem Guirado, who makes his first start since the win over Argentina.

“If he hadn’t recovered, we wouldn’t play him,” Brunel said of Penaud, “the same goes for Antoine Dupont. We’ve protected them a bit, looked after them and they are 100% fit today.”

The cancellation of France’s final pool match against England due to Typhoon Hagibis meant that Brunel had not returned to a side resembling the one that forced a 23-21 victory over the Pumas on the opening weekend.

For a clash with Grand Slam winners Wales, Brunel made one change from that team, drafting in South African-born Bernard Le Roux in place of Arthur Iturria in the second row.

“We know how active he is, we’ve seen that since the start of the tournament,” Brunel said.

“We love that back-row/second-row player profile. He’s very active around the park and loves contact.”

Iturria, who also fits that profile, but is not quite the physical wrecking ball that Le Roux can be on his day, misses out on the match-day 23, Brunel instead naming lock Paul Gabrillagues and number eight Louis Picamoles among the replacements.

Maxime Medard will start at fullback alongside wingers Penaud and Yoann Huget, while Fiji-born Virimi Vakatawa and Gael Fickou are in midfield. Dupont will partner Romain Ntamack at half-back, with Baptiste Serin and Camille Lopez on the bench.

Guirado packs down between props Rabah Slimani and Jefferson Poirot, while Le Roux is joined in the boiler house by Sebastien Vahaamahina.

Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon and Wenceslas Lauret form a combative back-row that will have its work cut out against Six Nations champions Wales.

Chat, Cyril Baille and Emerick Setiano provide front-row cover, while Vincent Rattez, called up as a replacement for Thomas Ramos, is preferred to Sofiane Guitoune as the back-three option from the bench.

“I can’t say where we’ll end up,”said Brunel, “but inside, I really feel something very positive from these four months of adventure during which different generations of players have come together.

“We can but hope to capitalise on that feeling and use that energy… which can offer up something very, very interesting.”

Flanker Ollivon added that France’s World Cup pedigree, having played three finals and reached the semi-finals on six occasions, was not something on which the players dwelled.

“When you come into a competition, you don’t really think back to what’s already past,” he said, “but France has a fantastic history in the World Cup, we know that and obviously want to stay at that level of performance.

“Now we’re in the quarter-finals, we want to stay as long as possible.”

France

15. Maxime Medard
14. Damian Penaud
13. Virimi Vakatawa
12. Gael Fickou
11. Yoann Huget
10 Romain Ntamack
9. Antoine Dupont

1. Jefferson Poirot
2. Guilhem Guirado (Capt)
3. Rabah Slimani
4. Bernard Le Roux
5. Sebastien Vahaamahina
6. Wenceslas Lauret
7. Charles Ollivon
8. Gregory Alldritt

Replacements:

16. Cyril Baille
17. Camille Chat
18. Emerick Setiano
19. Paul Gabrillagues
20. Louis Picamoles
21. Baptiste Serin
22. Camille Lopez
23. Vincent Rattez

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AFP

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