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Ntamack junior debuts for France

rfi English, Jan 30

France rugby head coach Jacques Brunel on Wednesday showed his hand for the forthcoming World Cup by giving debuts to Romain Ntamack and Paul Willemse for the opening match on Friday in the Six Nations tournament against Wales.

Ntamack, 19, has been preferred to vice-captain Mathieu Bastareaud in the defence.

"It's not a punishment," said Brunel shortly after announcing his team. "Mathieu is an important part of the squad. He is not at all out of the reckoning.

"Romain Ntamack is an obvious choice," added Brunel. "Everyone knows what he can do and he's shown since the start of the season that he is capable of stepping up is performances no matter what the level."

The teenager, who has been in dazzling form for Stade Toulousain in only his second season as a professional, has an illustrious pedigree.

His father, Emile, played for France 46 times between 1994 and 200 scoring 135 points.

South Africa born Willemse only became eligible to play for France in December and will be part of a second row of forwards featuring Sébastien Vahaamahina.

Guilhem Guirado will skipper a side keen to make a statement in Europe before taking on the world's best in Japan from September.

France finished the 2018 Six Nations competition in fourth place following victories over Italy and England.

Ireland claimed the title after winning all five of their matches.


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