Bordeaux-Bègles’ Matthieu Jalibert and Toulouse’s Antoine Dupont, stars of their clubs’ Heineken Champions Cup campaigns this season, will be France’s half-backs in their Guinness Six Nations Championship opener against Italy in Rome on Saturday.
Fly-half Jalibert, who replaces the injured Romain Ntamack, Dupont’s clubmate, has netted 17 points in the opening two rounds to guide UBB to two wins, while scrum-half Dupont scored a try in Toulouse’s away victory over Ulster.
The duo will look to command a French side teeming with players from Heineken Champions Cup clubs.
Montpellier have three representatives in the starting XV in prop Mohamed Haouas, lock Paul Willemse and centre Arthur Vincent, who replaces injured Racing 92 star Virimi Vakatawa.
Despite Vakatawa’s absence, last season’s Heineken Champions Cup finalists still have two players in the starting line-up in wing Teddy Thomas and lock Bernard Le Roux.
There are also a pair of La Rochelle players in the XV, with Grégory Alldritt starting at No.8 eight and Brice Dulin at full-back, and two from RC Toulon in flanker Charles Ollivon, who captains the side, and wing Gabin Villière.
Toulouse prop Cyril Baille and hooker Julien Marchand, plus Lyon flanker Dylan Cretin are the other Heineken Champions Cup players in France’s starting side.