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Rugby League World Cup Preview: France

Les Chanticleers enter the tournament hoping to make an impact.


Squad

Bastien Ader (Toulouse Olympique), Olivier Arnaud (SO Avignon XIII), Lucas Albert (Catalans Dragons), Jason Baitieri (Catalans Dragons), William Barthau (Toulouse Olympique), Guillaume Bonnet (SO Avignon XIII), Julian Bousquet (Catalans Dragons), Clement Boyer (Toulouse Olympique), Damien Cardace (FC Lezignan), Nabil Djalout (Catalans Dragons), Theo Fages (Captain; St Helens), John Boudebza (London Harlequins), Benjamin Garcia (Catalans Dragons), Maxime Herold (XIII Limouxin), Benjamin Jullien (Warrington Wolves), Thibault Margalet (Catalans Dragons), Anthony Maria (Toulouse Olympique), Hakim Miloudi (Doncaster/Hull FC), Mark Keirallah (Toulouse Olympique), Roman Navarette (Catalans Dragons), Eloi Pelissier (Leigh Centurions), Mickael Rouch (XIII Limouxin), Gadwin Springer (Castleford Tigers), Fouad Yaha (Catalans Dragons).

Coach: Aurelien Cologni

Key player

Theo Fages

He is the captain and undoubted star of the team, and a lot will rest on the young five-eighth’s shoulders. At 23, he is a regular in the Saint Helen’s Super League side and has the ability to dictate play on the field.

A very busy player who can work on improvised plays, he played a vital role in the second half of Saint’s season, with 14 try-assists and 16 off-loads showing his versatility. He has the capability to play at halfback or hooker as well.

His combination with teammate and London Broncos halfback William Bartheau will be a key part of the team’s game as they help to set up for their strong forward pack. With over 100 matches of club experience, he might look at this tournament as a chance to make his impact on the rugby league world.

Fixtures

Date and TimeOpponentLocation
Sunday 29 October, 4pm AESTLebanonCanberra
Friday 3 November, 8pm AESTAustraliaCanberra
Sunday 12 November, 6pm AESTEnglandPerth

Strengths

Fages and Bartheau will carry the responsibility of marshaling the team around the field, and expect to produce more realistic chances of scoring tries. They will look to hooker and Leigh Centurions utility Eloi Pelissier, to help them with work through the ruck, as his 73 dummy half runs and seven clean breaks for Leigh this season attests to.

Their forward pack, which includes Catalans trio Jason Baitieri, Julien Bousquet and Benjamin Garcia, along with Warrington Wolves back-rower Benjamin Julien, are not famed for their metre making abilities, all averaging around seven metres per carry. But they are more than capable of making tackles, all having made over 400 this past Super League season. They will draw on their experience and will look to cover the likes of Mitchell Moses and Robbie Farah when they face off against Lebanon in their first clash in Canberra. 

Weaknesses

While there are 12 players from the Catalans Dragons Super League side in the squad, it still contains a fair amount of inexperience. There are several players who are based locally, and at least nine players could be capped for the first time at some stage during the tournament. For most of these players, playing the likes of Australia and England will be the highest level of exposure they have received at this level before, and expect these to be two very tough assignments.

Prediction

With heavyweights Australia and England featuring in their group, their key clash will be their first match against Lebanon, which will decide the third and final qualifying spot. They should be able to account for the Cedar and make the quarter-finals, but expect a very tough battle.

Anything beyond the quarter-finals, which would match their 2013 result, would be a genuine shock.

How far do you think the French can get in the 2017 World Cup? Let us know in the comments below.

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Ahmad Khawaja

Cricket and Rugby League Staff Writer at RealSport

Ahmad is a passionate follower and preacher of Cricket. Born in New Zealand, now living in Australia, and of Pakistani descent, the sport most definitely runs in his blood.

Having worked in Assurance at big 4 firm EY for a number of years with New Zealand Cricket among his client base, he has come to appreciate the inner workings of leading cricket organisations that govern the great game.

In his spare time he follows a number of other sports including rugby league, union and tennis, plays competitive indoor and outdoor cricket, writes and undertakes acting in TV programmes and commercials.

Rugby League World Cup Preview: France

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