Penaud and Jelonch to start for France against Ireland

·3-min read
Damian Penaud during training in Marcoussis, south of Paris, ahead of Sunday's Six Nations clash with Ireland in Dublin

Winger Damian Penaud and flanker Anthony Jelonch were on Friday both named in the starting France XV that takes on Ireland in the Six Nations in Dublin.

Clermont's Penaud comes in for Teddy Thomas, who falls to the bench for Sunday's clash, while Castres backrower Jelonch replaces Dylan Cretin, also named among the substitutes.

The rest of the walk-on side is unchanged from the one that hammered Italy 50-10 in their opening Six Nations match last week.

Thomas scored a double in that jaunt in Rome, but coach Fabien Galthie said he had opted for Penaud's better defensive qualities against an Irish side missing captain Johnny Sexton, ruled out afer a blow to his head in the 21-16 defeat by Wales.

Galthie said Penaud was preferred to better deal with the "tactics that the Irish will bring to us... kicking down the tramlines and the aerial battle".

Cretin was also a try scorer in Rome, but Galthie has plumped for the counter-rucking abilities of Jelonch.

Jelonch, the former France skipper said, "has the capability to be tough at the ruck... The harder it is the more he gains in intensity".

Charles Ollivon skippers the team from the backrow alongside Jelonch and Gregory Alldritt, while the South Africa-born duo of Bernard Le Roux and Paul Willemse pair up in the second row.

Mohamed Haouas and Cyril Baille prop down again either side of Julien Marchand, Hassane Kolingar and New Zealand-born Uini Atonio named as front-row replacements along with Pierre Bougarit.

Antoine Dupont and Matthieu Jalibert are named at halfback with Gael Fickou and Arthur Vincent again pairing up in midfield. Penaud, Gabin Villiere and full-back Brice Dulin form the back three.

Anthony Bouthier comes in for Louis Carbonel on the bench, Galthie saying he preferred "a full-back capable of playing fly-half" rather than relying on the latter to drop back into what is a key position in international rugby union, particularly in defence.

France have not won in Dublin since a 26-22 victory in 2011 in a warm-up match ahead of that year's Rugby World Cup, in New Zealand. Their last Six Nations victory in the Irish capital was a 25-22 win in February 2011.

But since taking over after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Galthie has overseen eight victories in 10 matches and France move up to fourth in world rankings.

"We're already better than last year," he said. "And we'll continue to make progress in many domaines."

Turning to Ireland in particular, Galthie said Les Bleus had to make sure they were "well in the mix to meet challenges, no matter the conditions, no matter where, when or against who".

"We must also prepare ourselves to deal with chaos, in the most solid and robust manner... and manage the unforseen."

Sexton's absence, Galthie maintained, "will not change too much our way of playing".

His replacement Billy Burns will be partnered by Jamison Gibson-Park at half-back, Galthie reckoning that even thought the latter might be "slightly less classic" than Conor Murray, he'd bring the same kicking game and was also willing to take on defences with ball in hand.

France (15-1)

Brice Dulin; Damian Penaud, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Gabin Villiere; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon (capt), Anthony Jelonch; Paul Willemse, Bernard Le Roux; Mohamed Haouas, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille

Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Hassane Kolingar, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas

Coach: Fabien Galthie (FRA)