France will go into their opening Six Nations match against Italy with a backbone of a World Cup-hardened team, but new coach Philippe Saint-Andre has also picked a number of players purely on current form.
Saint-Andre, the former Toulon, Gloucester and Sale coach, kept faith with 22 members of the squad that reached the World Cup Final in naming a 30-strong squad to prepare for the Six Nations tournament.
It was the former international winger's first selection since taking over from Marc Lievremont, who endured a torrid time in New Zealand before taking Les Bleus to the World Cup Final, where they lost 7-8 to the All Blacks.
Of the eight other players Saint-Andre picked, there is a notable inclusion in the shape of Clermont centre Wesley Fofana, who has been in dazzling form in the Top 14 this season.
"He's lighting up the Top 14 and not just in one match," said Saint-Andre. "He's consistent in a club where there is enormous competition for places.
"Also he can play in several positions and he has even started at inside centre with Aurelien Rougerie at outside centre."
Fofana, soon to be 24, started making waves when the World Cup was on, benefiting from the absence of Rougerie with the France team, to build up some serious game time and establish himself at centre after having been shunted out to the wing.
"I've been able to play a string of games and get a lot of time on the field," the Paris-born back said.
"I've gained a lot of confidence and, above all, I've taken on what [Clermont backs coach] Franck Azema has told me, he has really helped me since I arrived at the club.
"We're on the same wavelength and have the same vision of the game."
Fofana admitted to being thrilled at the thought of rubbing shoulders with some of the current French team, but acknowledged he had one goal in mind.
"At first I think I'll be struck at finding myself with all these players who are very experienced, but importantly totally motivated by the idea of grounding myself in the squad to have the chance of wearing a France jersey."
Saint-Andre handed a recall to in-form Toulouse fly-half Lionel Beauxis, who has also been in amazing form, notably with the boot, having amassed an incredible 55 points in his last two Top 14 matches.
"It's proof of what he's done in the last two games he's played," the coach said. "I was in the stands for Montpellier v Toulouse and he did everything a great fly-half could do: penalties, drop-goals, kick-passes, breaking the line.
"Also he played two consecutive high-quality games and scored 55 points. He's a player who appeared at the World Cup four years ago and who was still very young [26 at the time].
"He had injury problems, but he's now a player currently in full form."
Also joining the squad will be Toulouse flank Yannick Nyanga, who also missed the cut for the World Cup in New Zealand but has shown good, consistent form for his club.
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