France head coach Aurélien Cologni has named his 19-man squad for the match with Scotland in Carcassonne tomorrow (Saturday, kick off 6pm CET) which, if his men remain unbeaten, will see them lift the European Championship for the first time in 13 years.
Going in as favourites against the yet to be victorious Scots, the French qualified for the 2021 World Cup last week with victory in Ireland after overcoming Wales the week before. Catalans duo Tony Gigot and French skipper Jason Baitieri are rested as they are required for pre-season with the Dragons on 2nd December. Toulouse pair Maxime Peuch and Gavin Marguerite replace them.
“The first goal, which was to qualify for the World Cup 2021, is achieved, and there remains a second mission, to win the European championship,” said Cologni. “We have confidence in our abilities and a spirit of solidarity which has been evident during the first two games.
“There is no difference between the Super League players, the championship, and the French domestic in terms of that, the newcomers have integrated seamlessly, we are truly training as a group, which will continue to grow in the years to come.”
Cologni, signalled the form of Catalans duo Alrix Da Costa and Lambert Belmas as being key to Les Blues success. “They were little used during Super League 2018, and have taken their chances this autumn in the tricolor jersey.”
Scotland, who will play as joint first seeds in next year’s final European qualifier for the World Cup, are decimated by injury. Joint head coaches Chris Chester and John Duffy have drafted in Newcastle’s Dan Turland, Hamish Bentley – younger brother of Kane – and Joe McClean, as Luke Westman, Lewis Tierney, Ben Kavanagh, Will Oakes, Billy McConnachie, Lachlan Stein and Sam Luckley have all picked up injuries over the last two weeks.
As well as Turland and Bentley, Bon Accord Bulls’ Niall Hall, plus Niall Sidney and Matt Hogg could all make their debuts, whilst Oliver Wilkes is set to play his 500th career match and win his 17th Scottish cap, his first professional appearance coming as a substitute for Sheffield in a 50-0 defeat at St Helens on 25 September, 1998.
“Even allowing for the long list of players that are unavailable to us, we have been disappointed with our performances so far in this tournament,” said joint head coach John Duffy. “We are taking a young, inexperienced squad to Carcassonne but more than half have come through the U19 and student pathway which is great.
“Regardless, we expect to see a lot of passion demonstrated for the Bravehearts shirt.”
FRANCE 19-MAN SQUAD : Lucas Albert, Lambert Belmas, Alrix da Costa, Mickael Goudemand, Benjamin Jullien (Catalans Dragons), Hakim Miloudi (Hull FC), Thibaud Margalet (St Esteve/XIII Catalan), Theo Fages (St Helens), Bastien Ader, William Barthau, Bastien Canet, Rhys Curran, Paul Marcon, Gavin Marguerite, Anthony Marion, Maxime Peuch (Toulouse Olympique) Morgan Escare, Romain Navarette (Wigan Warriors), Valentin Yesa (XIII Limouxin).
SCOTLAND 19-MAN SQUAD : David Scott (Batley Bulldogs), Niall Hall (Bon Accord Bulls), Frankie Mariano (Doncaster RL), Lewis Clarke, Finn Hutchison, Craig Robertson (Edinburgh Eagles), Davey Dixon, Kieran Moran (Keighley Cougars), Nick Glohe (Lakes United RLFC), Niall Sidney, Dan Turland (Newcastle Thunder), Matt Hogg (Newcastle University/Edinburgh Eagles), James Bell (New Zealand Warriors), Oscar Thomas (Sheffield Eagles), Ryan Brierley (Toronto Wolfpack), Kane Bentley, Hamish Bentley (Toulouse), Oliver Wilkes (Workington Town), Joe McClean (Unattached).
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 FIXTURES : ROUND 3
Saturday 10 November
France v Scotland – Stade Albert Domec, Carcassone (kick off 6pm)
Sunday 11 November
Wales v Ireland – Racecourse Ground, Wrexham (kick off 3pm)