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Six Nations Tournament: where to see and five things to know about France-Ireland

In Marseille.

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Six Nations Tournament: where to see and five things to know about France-Ireland

In Marseille

The opening match of the 2024 Six Nations Tournament will kick off this Friday at 9 p.m. It takes place at the Marseille Vélodrome, with the Blues playing the competition in the provinces (Lille and Lyon then), the Stade de France being unavailable due to work in preparation for the Olympic Games. This shock is broadcast live on France 2. It can also be followed on, commented by Louis Mouret. This France-Ireland will be refereed by the Englishman Karl Dickson, assisted on the sidelines by his compatriot Matthew Carley and the Australian Jordan Way. The official in charge of video refereeing (TMO) will be Welshman Ben Whitehouse.

Change in continuity. For this first match since the failure in the quarter-final of the World Cup, 110 days ago, Fabien Galthié brought back ten of the fifteen starters beaten by South Africa (29-28) to face Ireland. The back Thomas Ramos, the winger Damian Penaud, the centers Jonathan Danty and Gaël Fickou, the fly half Matthieu Jalibert, the third lines Charles Ollivon and Grégory Alldritt (promoted captain), the pillars Uini Atonio and Cyril Baille as well as hooker Peato Mauvaka. Missing are Thibaut Flament (convalescent), Cameron Woki (replacement), Anthony Jelonch (injured), Antoine Dupont (defection) and Louis Bielle-Biarrey (replacement). On the match sheet, the proportion is even greater: 19 globalists out of 23. The exception is the second row Paul Willemse (who had to withdraw a few days before the start of the World Cup), his friend in the cage, the returning Paul Gabrillagues (16th and last selection in the quarter-final of the World Cup… 2019), the young scrum half of Racing 92, Nolann Le Garrec, and the U20 world champion, Posolo Tuilagi, called up from last minute on the bench after the withdrawal of Romain Taofifenua, ill. The last two named are the only neophytes.

Since November 18, 2000, and a first triumph against New Zealand (42-33), the XV of France has played 14 times at the Stade Vélodrome, for a record of 12 victories and 2 defeats, i.e. 86% success. . The last one dates back to the World Cup and a France-Namibia of sad memory. If the Blues had signed the biggest story in their history (96-0), they had lost their captain, Antoine Dupont, for three weeks, victim of a broken jaw. The two losses conceded in Marseille were against Argentina in 2004 (14-24) and the All Blacks in 2009 (12-39). For the record, Paul Gabrillagues scored his only try there in the blue jersey (16 caps), against Italy (34-17) on February 23, 2018. “It’s a stadium that we love. A crazy energy comes down from the stands... We like the Stade de France, but the Vélodrome has something special, something different,” underlined the new captain of the Blues, Grégory Alldritt.

Jack Crowley will be the subject of all attention. At 24, the Munster fly-half is in fact the first to don the number 10 of the Clover XV since the retirement of legend Johnny Sexton at the end of the recent World Cup. Succession is intimidating. On the one hand, the 118 selections of the best scorer in the history of Ireland (1,108 points), on the other, 4 starts (9 selections in total) for 351 minutes of play with the selection in the green jersey. The Blues identified the opportunity. “He will have a lot of pressure. It’s up to us to be on him the whole game to try to foil him,” announced Thomas Ramos.

Also read Six Nations: “Sexton’s succession is a real unknown”, Ireland deciphered by its journalists

For a long time the official understudy of his Toulouse teammate Julien Marchand, Peato Mauvaka has 29 caps. But only eight as a starter. His 9th start has a particularity. At 27, this is the first time that the native of New Caledonia will start a match in the Six Nations Tournament, Julien Marchand having started in all 20 matches of the competition since the start of Fabien Galthié's mandate. 20 out of 20 also for Antoine Dupont in the Tournament for, also therefore, a first start for Maxime Lucu. At 31 years old, the UBB scrum half has, before this France-Ireland, 18 caps but only 6 from the start of the match.

Born in Vannes, where he was trained, the Morbihan resident Nolann Le Garrec joined Racing 92 in 2017. If he had to come off the bench in Maxime Lucu's relay this Friday evening against Ireland, the scrum half would only be the fourth player of Breton origin to be selected for the XV of France. Before him, there was second-row Gérard Bouguyon (1935-2016), 9 selections, all in 1961. Born in Pont de Buis in Finistère, he played at PUC, Grenoble, Toulouse, Tarbes and Bagnères . Born in Gers to a Finistère father, Jean Le Droff (1939-2021), also second row, also has 9 caps, from 1963 to 1971. He spent his entire career at FC Auch. The third and last “Breton” is Jean-Pascal Barraque. If the full-back is a native of Chesnay, in Yvelines, he left at the age of seven to Concarneau where he was trained and licensed from 1998 to 2007. He has only one selection, against Italy in November 2020, as a center while he wore the Clermont jersey.

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