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Laporte opts for youth and experience
Paris
January 9, 2000

France coach Bernard Laporte opted for a mixture of youth and experience on Sunday when he named a preliminary 35-man squad for the Six Nations tournament.

Laporte, who succeeded Jean-Claude Skrela in November after the World Cup, has kept faith with veteran lock Abdelatif Benazzi, scrum-half Fabien Galthie and fly-half Christophe Lamaison.

"In this squad 20 out of 35 took part in the World Cup finals," said Laporte. "It proves we have an efficient side even if it was difficult to make choices and to leave players aside."

Laporte also named nine uncapped players, saying he wanted to give new faces a chance to prove themselves before he trimmed his squad to 22 ahead of France's opening match against Wales in Cardiff on February 5.

"Having played in the World Cup doesn't give the players any rights. Everybody can be replaced," said Laporte. "For the tournament I will choose the 22 best. Our rugby needs new ideas now."

The French coach did not say who would captain the side but there is mounting speculation that Raphael Ibanez will be replaced despite steering his side into the World Cup final against Australia.

Agen's Benazzi, who captained the side in the mid-1990s, or Toulouse second row Fabien Pelous are favourites to be handed the responsibility.

"I'll make my choice known on January 23," said Laporte. "I need some time to review everything because I am looking for a charismatic leader. I already have two or three names in mind but I don't want to make a mistake."

France's general manager Jo Maso said he was pleased by the composition of Laporte's first squad.

"This is an interesting squad," Maso said. "Laporte has made his choices alone and I like them. It merges maturity and youth."

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