Rugby-Teenager Tuilagi gets Six Nations start as French lock


  • Rugby
  • Friday, 23 Feb 2024

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - Scotland v France - Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain - February 10, 2024 France's Posolo Tuilagi celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith/ File photo

(Reuters) -France named 19-year-old lock Posolo Tuilagi in their starting lineup for the first time and confirmed Charles Ollivon as captain for Sunday's Six Nations clash against Italy.

Tuilagi, who weighs nearly 150kg, came off the bench in France's opening two matches of this year's championship, but now partners Cameron Woki in the second-row from the kick-off at Villeneuve-d'Ascq.

He is one of two changes named on Friday by coach Fabien Galthie to the French side that edged Scotland in a controversial 20-16 win at Murrayfield almost two weeks ago.

Tuilagi is the latest international to emerge from a Samoan family with a rich rugby heritage. His father and four uncles played test rugby for the Pacific island , while another uncle Manu represented England and the British & Irish Lions.

Ollivon takes over the leadership from Gregory Alldritt, who suffered a cut to his left thigh against the Scots and sits out.

Alldritt's absence also means a reshuffle in the back row as Francois Cross moves to No. 8 and Paul Boudehent comes in on the side of the pack.

Galthie says those critical of the team after their win in Scotland underestimate how much of an achievement it was.

"If it is not understood by part of the population, we understand it," Galthie told reporters. "When you compete in the Six Nations, it’s like a 400m (race), you start by sprinting and you have to accelerate at each turn.

"There is no one more demanding than us. We are very specific in our analysis. We want to play better and specifically defend better.

"Playing better also means without the ball, we need to be more disciplined. We must first be strong on the basics: solidarity, commitment and courage."

Born in Samoa, Tuilagi has been in France since he was three and is the son of Henry Tuilagi, who won 10 caps for Samoa between 2002 and 2009 and played for Perpignan for eight years.

Tuilagi was not selected in France's initial Six Nations squad, but a series of injuries and suspensions has seen him get his chance. He takes the place of Paul Gabrillagues.

Lock Romain Taofifenua returns from illness as a substitute.

Team:

15-Thomas Ramos, 14-Damian Penaud, 13-Gael Fickou, 12-Jonathan Danty, 11-Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10-Matthieu Jalibert, 9-Maxime Lucu, 8-Francois Cros, 7-Charles Ollivon (captain), 6-Paul Boudehent, 5-Posolo Tuilagi, 4-Cameron Woki, 3-Uini Atonio, 2-Peato Mauvaka, 1-Cyril Baille

Replacements: 16-Julien Marchand, 17-Sebastien Taofifenua, 18-Dorian Aldegheri, 19-Romain Taofifenua, 20-Alexandre Roumat, 21-Esteban Abadie, 22-Nolann Le Garrec, 23-Yoram Moefana.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Alexander Smith and Christian Radnedge)

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