Rugby | Six Nations Jalibert, Palis make debuts in France team against Ireland

Maxime Machenaud (left) Antoine Dupont (center) and Matthieu Jalibert run during a training session at the National Rugby Center in Marcoussis, south of Paris, yesterday

Teen flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert and fullback Geoffrey Palis will make their test debuts in France’s Six Nations opener against Ireland tomorrow.

France coach Jacques Brunel has named an experimental-looking side in his first match in charge since replacing Guy Noves, who was fired after failing to win any of the four matches in the November test series.

Noves has also selected four uncapped players among his reserves, in what is likely to be a stern test for a France team in transition.

The 19-year-old Jalibert will play alongside scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who will make his 32nd test appearance and will take the kicking duties at Stade de France.

Although Brunel has picked an experienced front row, with captain Guilhem Guirado at hooker next to props Jefferson Poirot and Rabah Slimani, lock Arthur Iturria will start his first game in only his second test for France.

Kevin Gourdon, who usually plays at flanker, moves to No. 8 for the first time at international level.

In the backs, Teddy Thomas and Virimi Vakatawa start on the wings with Henry Chavancy will combine with Remi Lamerat at center.

France finished third last year and Ireland was second behind England.

Also tomorrow, Wales plays against Scotland in Cardiff in the opening round.

The regular starts and regular scoring this season in Britain earned the Worcester Warriors’ Josh Adams a debut for Wales side.

“We have been watching Josh closely,” Wales coach Warren Gatland said this week. “We’ve been impressed with him.”

Adams got his break because George North and Hallam Amos were underdone. North, coming back from a left knee injury, has been released back to his Northampton club.

The rest of the Wales backline all came from Scarlets, although the club could count Adams, too. He went through the Scarlets academy before leaving for Worcester in 2015.

Cohesion was a tipping factor in picking Rhys Patchell as the starting flyhalf ahead of the more pragmatic Gareth Anscombe, who was in the reserves. Patchell, capped five times, will continue his club combination with scrumhalf Gareth Davies.

With eight British Lions out – North, Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau, Rhys Webb, Jonathan Davies, Dan Biggar, Liam Williams, Dan Lydiate – the Welsh selectors went with known combinations in an effort to compensate for lack of experience. Gatland hopes North and Williams will be available to play England next week.

Scarlets have reached the European Champions Cup quarterfinals – the first Welsh club in six years – and Gatland has predictably leaned on them to pick 10 starters and two more in the reserves.

“It’s great that the Scarlets have made the quarterfinals of Europe, we’ve got players coming in with confidence and self-belief,” Gatland said. “Familiarity is important, it fast-tracks us in terms of preparation.”

Making a timely return at No. 8 was Ross Moriarty, who suffered nerve damage in his back in the first match of the Lions tour in New Zealand and didn’t play again until this month. Plus, openside flanker Josh Navidi and blindside Aaron Shingler, who started together three times in the autumn tests, were kept, leaving Lions flanker Justin Tipuric in the reserves.

“The No. 7 jersey was a big debate,” Gatland said. “Navidi was outstanding in the autumn and he deserves to retain that jersey. Having Tipuric on the bench, we know the quality he brings.” MDT/AP

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