XV of France: the selection of foreign players at the heart of the Posolo Tuilagi imbroglio

What will the first post-World Cup French rugby team look like? Three months after the Blues' cruel exit at home, against South Africa in the quarter-finals, Fabien Galthié is preparing to launch a new cycle to lead his French team to the 2027 World Cup in Australia

XV of France: the selection of foreign players at the heart of the Posolo Tuilagi imbroglio

What will the first post-World Cup French rugby team look like? Three months after the Blues' cruel exit at home, against South Africa in the quarter-finals, Fabien Galthié is preparing to launch a new cycle to lead his French team to the 2027 World Cup in Australia. On Wednesday January 17, the French coach will announce a first list of 34 players who will prepare for the first match of the Six Nations Tournament against Ireland on February 2 in Marseille.

Some certainties already: Antoine Dupont will not be one of them. The usual captain of the French XV is skipping this year to favor rugby sevens and the quest for a medal at the Paris Olympic Games. His friend at Stade Toulouse and in the selection Romain Ntamack will also be missing, the fly-half still nursing a knee injury having already deprived him of the World Cup.

Fabien Galthié's first list should therefore give pride of place to the team's executives, but also to a few young people who shone during the first days of the French championship. The former scrum half is fond of “UFOs” as he liked to repeat during his first four years in office, and was able to observe a beautiful one at the end of 2023, in the person of Posolo Tuilagi.

At 19 years old, the second line from Perpignan born in Samoa is the last member of a family of illustrious rugby players: his brother, his cousins ​​and his uncles mostly played professionally, and his father, Henry Tuilagi also made the Catalan club happy, from 2007 to 2015. But even within such a lineage, Posolo's physique stands out and explains why he is so often used in his team's attacking line: 145 kg for 1.92m!

Crowned under-20 world champion with the Bleuets in the summer of 2023, the colossus trained at USAP – where he took his first license in 2010 – could quickly eye the first team in the selection, despite his little experience (only fourteen matches played in the Top 14). The fact remains that his case has been the subject of an imbroglio in recent days.

“It was just one man’s decision.”

According to the rules of World Rugby – the international federation – a player is eligible to defend the colors of a country if he has resided there for 60 consecutive months. This is the case for Tuilagi, but a French specificity has caused confusion. During his years at the head of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), Bernard Laporte (from 2016 to 2023) and his teams made obtaining a passport a mandatory condition to claim the French XV.

“There’s no law about it. It was simply the decision of one man, which was not even validated by the steering committee, replied Jean-Marc Lhermet, vice-president of the FFR since the appointment of Florian Grill in 2023, Friday with Rugbyrama . To be very clear, we thought she had been, but not at all. Therefore, there was nothing forcing us to continue in this direction. »

In the evening, the FFR hastened to publish a press release to clarify the situation of the second line. “Although under the presidency of Bernard Laporte an orientation was adopted to limit the selection of foreign players, except holders of a French passport, the process of selecting a player remains exclusively dictated by the rules of World Rugby. »

Selectable, Posolo Tuilagi is not guaranteed to make his debut with the Blues on February 2, nor even to be part of Fabien Galthié's list of 34 players. “The fact that he is selectable does not mean that he will necessarily play. Simply, if Fabien Galthié wants to align him, he can,” confirmed Jean-Marc Lhermet.

Like many players, the second row will surely follow with interest the announcement of the list on January 17. If he could take advantage of the foot injury of the usual starter Thibaud Flament to try to find a place there, he will especially have to face another strong competition: that of Emmanuel Meafou (2.03 m , 145kg). The Toulouse native, born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, also plans to play his first minutes with the France team during the Six Nations Tournament.