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Attoub surprisingly makes France's 6 Nations squad

Updated: January 26, 2012, 07:10


MARCOUSSIS, France(AP) Prop David Attoub was surprisingly picked on Thursday in a France squad for its Six Nations opener against Italy next week that also contains two uncapped players and numerous World Cup veterans.

Two years ago, Attoub was initially banned for 70 weeks for eye-gouging flanker Stephen Ferris' eye during Stade Francais' 23-13 Heineken Cup loss at Ulster. He lost an appeal but his ban was later cut to 52 weeks by the French National Olympic Committee.

Attoub, whose only test appearance was six years ago against Romania, was not in France's provisional 30-man squad for the Six Nations, making the decision even more surprising.

"I had him on the phone after training, he was so shocked he almost had an accident,'' coach Philippe Saint-Andre said. "But Pascal Pape was driving the car and slammed the brakes on.''

"He's one the best tighthead props around at the moment and his profile (is right to face Italy). The squad is open for everyone. It's possible that one or two different players could come back after Italy for the Ireland game.''

Saint-Andre also selected flyhalf Lionel Beauxis, loosehead prop Vincent Debaty - who has played one test - plus uncapped center Wesley Fofana and uncapped lock Yoann Maestri in his 23-man squad.

Fofana and Maestri are both 23, although they have had differing career paths.

Fofana, who has never represented France at any level, made his Clermont debut three years ago and was French champion the following year. He has formed an impressive midfield partnership with veteran international Aurelien Rougerie.

Maestri, who plays for Toulouse, captained France under-20s in the 2008 junior worlds and Six Nations. He also played for France at under-19 and under-18 level.

Beauxis, meanwhile, last played for France in June 2009 but has been in fine form for Toulouse.

Saint-Andre balanced out the inexperience of Attoub, Debaty, Fofana and Maestri by selecting many players from last year's World Cup, at which France lost 8-7 to New Zealand in the final.

"We have a balance between strength and creativity, with 16 players who were at the World Cup and players of potential,'' Saint-Andre said. "The players are committed and motivated to wear the French jersey.''

Winger Alexis Palisson, who played in the Rugby World Cup final, was dropped after recently moving to Toulon from Brive.

"He's had a bit of trouble finding his feet in his new club,'' Saint-Andre said. "He's paying the price a bit for his lack of form.''

France plays Italy next Saturday at Stade de France, and faces Ireland at home the following week.

Saint-Andre, who replaced Marc Lievremont after he led France at the World Cup, has no grand designs on how France will approach its first game against a team that beat France in the Six Nations last year.

"The philosophy of play is to beat Italy because we have some revenge to take,'' Saint-Andre said. "The star remains the team, but I need champions out there.''

Saint-Andre lamented the fact his squad will be returning to play for their clubs this weekend, leaving them exposed to injury. But having left Top 14 side Toulon to become coach of France, he is sympathetic to club demands.

"I came from the Top 14, so I know what it's like,'' he said. "There are presidents in those clubs who are under pressure and I understand that.''

Thankfully, Saint-Andre said, Clermont his given assurances it won't select Debaty, Fofana, Rougerie, flanker Julien Bonnaire, scrumhalf Morgan Parra and winger Julien Malzieu this weekend. He said Toulouse may also rest some of its France contingent.

Saint-Andre isn't feeling under pressure heading into his first game.

"For the time being all is well, I haven't played a game yet,'' he said. "I'm still unbeaten.''

---

France:

Forwards: David Attoub, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Jean-Baptiste Poux, William Servat, Dimitri Szarzewski, Yoann Maestri, Lionel Nallet, Pascal Pape, Julien Bonnaire, Thierry Dusautoir, Louis Picamoles, Imanol Harinordoquy.

Backs: Morgan Parra, Dimitri Yachvili, Francois Trinh-Duc, Lionel Beauxis, Maxime Mermoz, Wesley Fofana, Vincent Clerc, Julien Malzieu, Aurelien Rougerie, Maxime Medard.

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