Damian Penaud will return to the right wing for France in their decisive Six Nations clash against England as they look to secure their first title and Grand Slam in more than 10 years on Saturday.
Penaud missed out on Les Bleus’ 13-9 victory against Wales in Cardiff last Friday after a positive COVID-19 test but he is now fit to help his team claim a title that has eluded them since 2010.
Coach Fabien Galthie’s lineup was as expected, with scrum-half Antoine Dupont being paired with fly-half Romain Ntamack behind an unchanged pack.
While England can only finish the championship in third place at best, they remain a formidable opponent, according to France general manager Raphael Ibanez.
“I was at the heart of English rugby for six years and I can tell you one thing: they are always motivated,” former France international Ibanez, who played for Saracens from 2003-05 and Wasps from 2005-09, told a news conference.
“They don’t have this passionate side that we can have and makes you think some games are more or less important than others. That’s what makes them formidable opponents.”
France, however, have shown brilliance and resilience in their first four games of the Six Nations and will be looking to deliver a first title since Galthie took over at the end of 2019.
Les Bleus were close in the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup, but lost to England in the final, and ended up second in last year’s Six Nations with three wins and two defeats, one of them against Eddie Jones’s side. They were also second in 2020.
Those results, however, were followed by an exhilarating win against New Zealand in the Autumn series last year.
“It is true that this game has given us momentum and we’re still on that momentum,” Ibanez added. “But what matters is what happens on Saturday. There’s not what ifs.”
“We’ve ended up second in our last competitions, losing top spot in the last game,” Galthie said.
“But we have learned from this. I want to stay humble but I am not going to lie. We are now where we were expecting to be.”
Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (captain); Gregory Alldritt, Anthony Jelonch, Francois Cros, Paul Willemse, Cameron Woki, Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille.
Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Mohamed Haouas, Romain Taofifenua, Thibaud Flament, Dylan Cretin, Maxime Lucu, Thomas Ramos.