XV OF FRANCE – Uini Atonio, injured in the knee against Toulouse, could miss the Six Nations tournament with the XV of France. An absence which inevitably revives a debate: who to take on the role of holder of the post of right pillar in the Blue jersey during the next Tournament?
Uini Atonio is the strong man in this position within the blue selection, with his experience, his strength in melee, and his 146kg which weigh on the opposing defenses. Present in the French team since 2014, he has especially imposed himself with the arrival at the controls of Fabien Galthié. If his absence is confirmed, it would be a real blow for the XV of France. For the coach and his staff, the time is now for replacement. Who could take their place in the fray?
Falatea, the logical choice
He is perhaps today the number one suitor to take over from the colossus from La Rochelle. Sipili Falatea (1m83, 116kg) who finds colors on the side of Bordeaux-Bègles after a missed passage in Clermont has the confidence of the management of the Blues. His tour of Australia had satisfied the tricolor staff, eager to see him back in the group. Despite the fact, as he revealed in the columns of Midi Olympique, that he did not play on the Auvergne side. Author of the test which gave victory to the XV of France against the Springboks last November, the one who now has seven selections is surely the number 1 option to take over from Atonio.
Haouas, time for revenge
Mohamed Haouas, formerly number 1, will clearly be one of the contenders for this succession. But the Montpellier player is struggling to regain his level at the start of Fabien Galthié’s mandate, and several options have taken a lead on the latter in the mind of the coach. This club season, he has also lost credibility to the point that he will leave the reigning French champion club and join ASM at the end of the season. So without a doubt, if the selection board of the rooster offers him a chance to express himself, the player trained in Montpellier will most certainly be vengeful and will want to prove that he too deserves his place on the train towards the Coupe du world.
Bamba, a real card to play
Generally very good in the role of impact-player to which Galthié, Servat and the rest of the staff are so attached, Demba Bamba is struggling to really establish himself as a real option to start a meeting in Blue. With 27 selections, he nevertheless remains a regular at Marcoussis and at the international level, despite only eight tenures as the right pillar in the French fray. In addition, the Lyonnais has just returned from an injury which caused him to miss the whole start of the club season, and he may be deemed too physically fit to be able to seriously apply for a starting position, but once again his qualities as finisher could be called upon to make the difference at the end of the match. He therefore has, if his luck is given him, a real card to play for the 2023 World Cup.
Laclayat, an opportunity to seize
The Oyonnax player made his appearance in the extended Blues group during the summer tour of Japan in the summer of 2022. He returned to Marcoussis to prepare for Australia last November. If he has never set foot on international lawns, he could well try to carve out a place within this team and try to shake up the hierarchy. Second scorer of the Pro D2, his qualities ball in hand could seduce the staff of the Blues to give him a chance at the next Six Nations tournament.
Aldegheri, the surprise
And if the experienced Toulousain was the last minute surprise? Dorian Aldegheri, who has worn the Blue jersey seven times, is one of the most consistent players in the Top 14 with his Toulouse club. Accustomed to playing at the top level, whether in the final stages of the Top 14 or in the Champions Cup, the player could be the lucky one to replace Uini Atonio. Even if this call-up would be unexpected, given that his last selection dates back to March 2021, despite a call-up for the 2022 Japan tour. right in the France team, which had not seemed so under construction for a long time.