Louis Picamoles has booked his ticket to a third Rugby World Cup after the experienced back-row was included in Jacques Brunel’s France squad for Japan 2019.
Picamoles is expected to call time on his test career following the tournament but will have a chance to add to his 79 caps over the next two months.
The 33-year-old played three times as Les Bleus made the final of New Zealand 2011 and started four matches in England four years later, scoring a try during his side’s quarter-final defeat to the All Blacks.
“We picked [Picamoles] after several nice performances and because of his experience,” Brunel said. “We also picked a player who can play third and second-row in Arthur Iturria.”
Three players included in the provisional 31-man squad that Brunel named in June will not make the trip to Japan.
Centre Geoffrey Doumayrou was ruled out with an Achilles injury last month, while prop Dany Priso and second-row Felix Lambey were dropped on Monday. Virimi Vakatawa, Cyril Baille and Charles Ollivon are the players who come in.
Hooker Peato Mauvaka, prop Emerick Setiano and winger Alivereti Raka have all been confirmed in the 31-man touring party despite only making their test debuts in August.
Mauvaka and Setiano are both graduates of World Rugby U20 Championship, while two others in the squad for Japan, Demba Bamba and Romain Ntamack, were part of the France team that won that tournament for the first time in 2018.
A good balance
Ntamack will follow in the footsteps of his famous father Emile, who represented Les Bleus at Rugby World Cup 1995 and 1999 – playing in the final defeat to Australia in the latter tournament.
France have competed at every Rugby World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987 and have never failed to navigate the pool stage.
That proud record will come under scrutiny in Japan, where the two-time finalists have been drawn in a tough pool alongside Argentina, England, Tonga and the USA.
Les Bleus open their Pool C campaign against the Pumas in Tokyo on 21 September before playing the USA in Fukuoka on 2 October and Tonga – who beat them in the pool stage of New Zealand 2011 – in Kumamoto four days later.
England will provide the opposition for France’s final pool match when the Six Nations rivals meet in Yokohama on 12 October.
Brunel is confident that the squad that he has named is good enough to go far in Japan.
“The favourites are always the same. The number one favourites are the All Blacks,” he said.
“This squad is a good mix of youth and experience, it’s a good balance. The pool is tough but we hope to get very very far in this tournament.”
France squad for Rugby World Cup 2019
Forwards: Jefferson Poirot, Cyril Baille, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Camille Chat, Peato Mauvaka, Emerick Setiano, Rabah Slimani, Demba Bamba, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Gabrillagues, Arthur Iturria, Wenceslas Lauret, Yacouba Camara, Charles Ollivon, Grégory Alldritt, Louis Picamoles.
Backs: Antoine Dupont, Baptiste Serin, Maxime Machenaud, Romain Ntamack, Camille Lopez, Wesley Fofana, Gaël Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa, Sofiane Guitoune, Yoann Huget, Damian Penaud, Alivereti Raka, Thomas Ramos, Maxime Médard.