France to trim Six Nations squad to set up tournament bubble

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Six Nations Championship - France v Ireland

PARIS (Reuters) - France are to cut their Six Nations squad from 37 to 31 players as they set up a bubble to avoid COVID-19 contaminations, the French league and federation said on Saturday.

The initial agreement between the national league (LNR) and the federation (FFR) said that the France squad would feature 37 players and an extra five for training sessions, with nine of them being allowed to return for club duty when needed.

Under the new agreement, the 31 players will remain within the squad for the duration of the Six Nations, which starts on Feb. 6 and ends on March 20.

"The health situation requires us to take new measures to limit the risks associated with the movement of players entering and leaving the France squad during the period of the Six Nations," the FFR and LNR said in a joint statement.

"At the request of the FFR, the FFR and the LNR have therefore agreed to have a squad of 31 players from Jan. 31 and for the whole duration of the tournament."

The FFR and the LNR said that should a player be called on to replace an injured team mate, they would need to follow a strict protocol.

France start their campaign with a trip to Italy.

Coach Fabien Galthie named a 37-man squad earlier this month, but he has yet to trim down his group following the FFR and LNR announcement.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Chopra)