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France name stellar squad for World Rugby Classic title defence

France Classic Rugby celebrate their World Rugby Classic triumph last year (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

France will be aiming to retain the World Rugby Classic title they won last year for just the second time when the tournament returns on October 8.

The defending champions will be bringing a cosmopolitan side to the island with players who have represented, not only France, but also Romania, Spain and Canada.

Notably among them is Damien Chouly, who played 46 times for France from 2007 to 2017, having previously been capped at under-21 level on four occasions, including winning the Under-21 Rugby World Championship in 2006. A former captain of Clermont, where he made 160 appearances, he also played 204 times for Perpignan and 50 times for Brive.

Also named in the squad is Ovidie Tonita, who was capped on 73 occasions for Romania from 1999 to 2016 at flanker and featured in five Rugby World Cups. He played most of his club rugby in France with Grenoble, Biarritz, Carcassonne and Perpignan.

Benoit Piffero was capped 24 times for Canada from 2013 at hooker, including the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He played for Atlantic Rock in Canada as well as for Valence Romans Drome, Blagnac and Castanet in France.

Cedric Garcia played his club rugby at scrum half in France for Montauban, Bayonne and Castres, and was capped on three occasions for Spain, while Mathieu Amoros was capped twice for Spain at full back, having played his club rugby in France for AGDE and Beziers.

Also included is Florian Faure, who was capped at France “A” and under-21 levels as flanker, and played for Grenoble. He also played for Castres and Biarritz in his career.

Meanwhile, the Lions Legends featuring players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, who last won the Classic in 2015, have also named their squad. It is headed up by Munster legend Ian Keatley, who played 180 times for his province, having previously played 77 times for Connacht.

He was capped at out half for Ireland on seven occasions in an international career that also included Ireland Under-20, the Irish Wolfhounds and Ireland Sevens.

When he left Munster in 2019, he was the province’s second all-time leading point-scorer after Ronan O’Gara. He moved to London Irish, then to Benetton and finally to Glasgow Warriors.

Also named in the squad is Delon Armitage, who was capped on 26 occasions for England from 2008 to 2012, in an international career that was curtailed by his move to play in France.

He played his club rugby for London Irish and Toulon, scoring the only try for the French club in their Heineken Cup triumph in 2013.

Richard Hibbard was capped 38 times for Wales and three times for the victorious British and Irish Lions in Australia in 2013. He also played for Wales A in rugby league. He played his club rugby for Swansea, Aberavon, Gloucester, Ospreys and Dragons.

Paul Doran-Jones rather uniquely played for England Under-18, Ireland Under-19 and Ireland Under-21 before he was selected for England Saxons and the full England team on six occasions. He played his club rugby primarily for London Welsh, Gloucester and Northampton before finishing at Harlequins.

There will also be an emphasis on speed in the Lions squad selection, with the inclusion of four members of the Wales team that won the sevens world title in 2009 — Martin Roberts, Aled Thomas, Aaron Bramwell and Rhodri McAtee.

The 34th instalment of the tournament will also include Rugby Italian XV, USA Classic Eagles, Canada and Argentina Legends, who won the title three times in a row between 2016 and 2019.

Gibraltar will also make an appearance, taking on a Bermuda team on October 9 before Rugby Canada play Lions Legends.

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Published August 31, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated August 31, 2022 at 7:49 am)

France name stellar squad for World Rugby Classic title defence

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