Jalibert handed France chance at fly-half in final Rugby World Cup warm-up

Matthieu Jalibert made his <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:France;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">France</a> debut in February 2018 (Paul ELLIS)
Matthieu Jalibert made his France debut in February 2018 (Paul ELLIS)

Matthieu Jalibert will start at fly-half in France's final Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Australia this weekend, head coach Fabien Galthie announced on Thursday.

Jalibert, 24, stands in for the injured Romain Ntamack, who will miss the tournament with a serious knee injury.

Galthie's choice for Sunday's game in Paris is a strong hint that 25-time international Jalibert will wear the No. 10 shirt against three-time winners New Zealand in the World Cup opener on September 8.

"Getting close to 30 caps is a real milestone, he's in the process of reaching a milestone in his growth, and also with his individual and collective experience with the squad," Galthie told reporters.

"There's no debate about his potential, and his ability to handle the position of No. 10 before playing Australia.

"For the future, we'll announce the team for New Zealand as usual nearer that game."

Former Test captain Galthie has made 10 changes from last weekend's win over Fiji, naming his likely starting line-up for the fixture with the All Blacks next month.

On the bench, prop Sebastien Taofifenua is set for his first Test appearance since November 2017 and will line up alongside his brother, lock Romain.

Front-rower Taofifenua is included despite missing out on a place in the final 33-man squad for the World Cup, which was announced on Monday, and being omitted for their two-month training preparation this summer.

"We've followed him. It's something we prepared," Galthie said.

"We predicted that we could have an anomaly around some players which would allow us to give out game time to other players."

Earlier this month, media reports claimed the game at the Stade de France could be cancelled.

Rugby Australia claimed a contract had been agreed for it to receive television rights money from the match.

Les Bleus headed south to play three Tests against the Wallabies in July 2021, when Covid-19 made it challenging to travel internationally.

"There was a gentleman's agreement in rugby terms between Australia's union and us," Galthie said.

"I'm very surprised by this mini crisis around this game because it was an exchange between the two unions carried out in a good manner," he added.

France (15-1)

Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Jonathan Danty, Gabin Villiere; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont (capt); Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Francois Cros; Paul Willemse, Thibaud Flament; Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Jean-Baptiste Gros

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Sebastien Taofifenua, Dorian Aldegheri, Romain Taofifenua, Cameron Woki, Paul Boudehent, Baptiste Couilloud, Melvyn Jaminet