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Risk-taking Galthie keeps innovating as France faces Georgia

November 12, 2021 GMT
France's Romain Ntamack is tackled during the rugby union international match between France and Argentina in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)
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France's Romain Ntamack is tackled during the rugby union international match between France and Argentina in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)
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France's Romain Ntamack is tackled during the rugby union international match between France and Argentina in Saint Denis near Paris, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

PARIS (AP) — Fabien Galthie likes taking risks since taking charge of France two years ago. They tend to come off.

It should be no surprise that the free-thinking coach is trying another innovative move in switching Cameron Woki from flanker to lock, even against a very physical Georgia side on Sunday in Bordeaux.

“There’s always an element of danger,” Galthie says. “You have to take risks, follow your ideas through until the end.”

Thibaud Flament might feel a tad frustrated, seeing as he makes way despite a try-scoring debut against Argentina last Saturday.

Galthie’s hunches often work, such as plucking Melvyn Jaminet out of nowhere and picking him at fullback for the Australia tour last summer — even though Jaminet had not even played in France’s Top 14.

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Jaminet looks a natural, despite a lack of experience, and his nerveless penalty kicking is a huge bonus for France.

Galthie’s other brainwave was moving Romain Ntamack from flyhalf to inside center alongside Matthieu Jalibert. It backfired last weekend as Argentina was beaten 29-20 and Ntamack was taken off.

In Galthie’s mind, that was a blip, and he has stuck with Ntamack.

“Once again, it’s about intuition, risk, what you feel. We are trying to organize the team in a certain way,” Galthie said. “We’ve had one more week to work on it, to analyze. Ntamack needs to improve the way he communicates with Jalibert. But they are two players who will transform how the team plays.”

He’s thinking ahead, meaning next week against New Zealand.

Woki’s selection was one of five changes.

Left winger Matthis Lebel will make his debut and takes Gabin Villiere’s spot.

Galthie selected Romain Taofifenua at lock alongside Woki, and returned Gregory Alldritt after the No. 8 took a rare seat on the bench against Argentina. It was the first time in 14 matches Alldritt was dropped from the starting lineup.

“I took it as a challenge,” he said. “Since I’m hugely competitive, I love it.”

Sekou Macalou is at flanker and the other selection change has Uini Atonio in for Mohamed Haouas at prop.

It will be an emotional match for Georgia coach Levan Maisashvili, who last July was induced into a coma in a Johannesburg hospital with COVID-19 and close to death.

“No one thought I would survive, not even the doctors,” he told sports daily L’Equipe on Friday. “I spent two months in hospital, the first one in an artificial coma, with assisted breathing. ... Yes, I am happy now. (But) I had some very bad days.”

In a previous interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said his family was told he had a 2% chance of survival.

Maisashvili has plenty of experience of France to draw upon with many players in his matchday 23 playing in the Top 14.

They include 19-year-old try-scoring fullback Davit Niniashvili lining up alongside Lyon teammate Beka Saghinadze, who starts at flanker.

Lock Grigor Kerdikoshvili, flanker Giorgi Tsutskiridze and No. 8 Beka Gorgadze boost the Lelos as they return from long injuries.

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Lineups:

France: Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Matthis Lebel, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont (captain); Gregory Alldritt, Sekou Macalou, Anthony Jelonch, Romain Taofifenua, Cameron Woki, Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille. Reserves: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Thibaud Flament, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Maxime Lucu, Jonathan Danty.

Georgia: Davit Niniashvili, Aka Tabutsadze, Giorgi Kveseladze, Merab Sharikadze, Alexander Todua, Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Beka Gorgadze, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Beka Saghinadze, Konstantin Mikautadze, Grigor Kerdikoshvili, Giorgi Melikidze, Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili. Reserves: Giorgi Chkoidze, Guram Gogichashvili, Luka Japaridze, Nodar Tcheishvili,Tornike Jalagonia, Mikheil Alania, Lasha Khmaladze, Demur Tapladze.

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