Ntamack back at 10 for France's World Cup rehearsal against All Blacks

·3-min read

Romain Ntamack will start at fly-half for this weekend's Test with New Zealand after featuring at centre throughout November, Fabien Galthie said on Thursday.

Ntamack replaces Matthieu Jalibert in the No. 10 shirt with the Bordeaux-Begles playmaker dropping to the bench for Saturday's dress rehearsal for the opening game of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The 22-year-old will partner Toulouse team-mate Antoine Dupont after playing in midfield for the wins over Argentina and Georgia earlier this month.

In part that was because centres Virimi Vakatawa and Arthur Vincent were injured but it was a chance for Galthie to try out the Jalibert-Ntamack combination at fly-centre and inside centre.

"We had two matches to test it," Galthie told reporters on Thursday.

"We chose this formula to start the match. It is based more on performance that simply the default.

"Antoine and Romain have a lot of experience together," he added.

La Rochelle's Jonathan Danty, who came on as a replacement in the wins over Argentina and Georgia, is promoted to the starting line-up at inside centre.

The 29-year-old, a robust defender and potential bulldozer in attack, returned from a four-year international exile in 2020's Autumn Nations Cup and started two Tests during this year's tour to Australia.

"He (Danty) performed very well during that competition," Galthie said.

"He put his hand up 200 percent with his on-field quality. He is a strong, unselfish player who is very good in defence and on the floor.

"He is 200 percent capable of facing the opposition," he added.

There are four other changes from last Sunday's win over Georgia, two of them to cover for hooker Julien Marchand and flanker Sekou Macalou who are both out injured.

Peato Mauvaka starts in the front-row with another Toulouse forward Francois Cros in the back-row.

Montpellier lock Paul Willemse comes in for Romain Taofifenua and Toulon winger Gabin Villiere replaces Matthis Lebel, who made his debut last weekend.

- 'Dominant' pack -

Galthie has named six forwards and two backs on the bench as he did against the Pumas.

"The idea is that we want to send on strong finishers among the pack," Galthie said.

"We want to maintain a pack that is capable of dominating the opposition, from the start to the end of the game," he added.

Only five of Galthie's matchday squad have faced the All Blacks before: captain Dupont, winger Damian Penaud, centre Gael Fickou as well as props Cyril Baille and Uini Atonio.

Saturday's visitors lost at Ireland last weekend but Les Bleus are without a win against the three times Rugby World Cup winners since 2009.

"When you know the quality of the opposition, they have depth, they are challenging," he said.

"This France team is our best team right now," he added.

France team (15-1)

Melvyn Jaminet; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (capt); Gregory Alldrit, Anthony Jelonch, Francois Cros; Paul Willemse, Cameron Woki; Uini Atonio, Peato Mauvaka, Cyril Baille

Replacements: Gaetan Barlot, Jean-Baptise Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Matthieu Jalibert

Coach: Fabien Galthie (FRA)

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