Eight of the Catalan Dragons, who were one match away from the Super League Grand Final, have been named in coach Richard Agar’s initial France squad for the 2014 European Championship, the winners of which will secure a place in the 2016 Four Nations Tournament.
Jason Baitieri leads the side but Catalan returnee for 2015 Remi Casty, who has been with Sydney Roosters this season, is omitted as are Thomas Bosc, Greg Mounis and previous skipper Olivier Elima.
Morgan Escaré has declared himself fit for inclusion while two 19-year-old centres, St-Estève’s Thibaud Margalet and Avignon’s Ben Jullien, are the youngest in the group and two of six debutants.
At the other end of the scale, 28-year-old Anthony Carrere is a surprise call up and joins fellow newcomer, half-back Remy Marginet of Palau as France seek to shake up the play-making combinations in a squad that also features 2013 World Cup scrum half William Barthau – who will move to London Broncos in 2015 – and Salford’s Theo Fages
Lezignan’s John Boudebza could see game time as one of only two specialist hookers in the squad after a break-out season under the coaching of Aurelien Cologni, the other rake being Eloi Pelissier, and Villeneuve’s sole representative, Aurelien Decarnin, is the other first time inclusion.
FRANCE 23-MAN TRAIN-ON SQUAD
Clement Soubeyras (AS Carcassonne), Jason Baitieri, Julian Bousquet, Damien Cardace, Vincent Duport, Morgan Escare, Benjamin Garcia, Antony Maria, Eloi Pelissier (Dragons Catalans), Kevin Larroyer (Hull KR), John Boudebza, Anthony Carrere, Jamal Fakir (FC Lezignan XIII), Remy Marginet, Frederic Vaccari (Palau), Theo Fages (Salford), Jean-Philippe Baile, William Barthau, Thibaud Margalet, Matthias Pala, Mikhael Simon (St-Estève XIII Catalan), Benjamin Jullien (SO Avignon XIII), Aurelien Decarnin (Villeneuve-sur-Lot XIII).
France coach Richard Agar will discuss his squad in Monday’s edition of Rugby League Express.