sport

France to rely on part timers

France could have six part-timers in their team to face England in the final of the autumn international series on Sunday.

Les Tricolores have lost a huge slice of experience with the departure of Catalan Dragons trio Gregory Mounis, Cyril Stacul and Mickael Simon, who were all injured in their 44-6 defeat by England in Hull last Saturday.

Coach Aurelien Cologni can call on seasoned forward Jamel Fakir at the Salford City Stadium, as well as another old stager in Sebastien Raguin, but the addition of centre Teddy Sadaoui means they have six players from the French domestic league in their 19-man squad.

Cologni has been keen to play down the influence of the Dragons players on the national team but captain Olivier Elima admits having a smaller pool of full-time players to pick from is a handicap.

"With time and more professionalism, we are going to get more young players up to Super League level," said Elima, who is returning to the Perpignan club in 2013 after two seasons with Bradford.

"Hopefully we will have a wider choice. At the moment, it's like England picking a team from one Super League team and the rest from the Championship.

"Saying that, we still do pretty good."

Cologni and Elima are confident their side can improve sufficiently from last weekend as they look to end a run of 14 consecutive defeats by England.

The return of Fakir, who was not born when France registered their last victory in 1981, is a much-needed boost.

He was forced to miss France's opening game against Wales due to a one-match ban imposed for a high tackle on Rob Burrow during the Catalans' play-off defeat by Leeds in September.

Fakir, 30, then picked up a hamstring injury in training and was wrapped in cotton wool ahead of the final.

"I could have played last week but I talked to the coach and he said he would prefer to wait for a week more so that I am 100%," said Fakir, who made his Test debut against New Zealand 12 years ago.

"I have trained and am ready to go. My body is good, I am very excited to play in the final.

"We want to forget the game at Hull. We are very excited, we want to win. I know it's very tough but every player is raring to go this week."

France 19-man squad (Catalan Dragons unless stated): M Pala, V Duport, K Larroyer, D Cardace, C Soubeyras (Pia), T Sadaoui (Carcassonne), T Bosc, W Barthau; O Elima (capt), T Gigot (Avignon), R Casty, J Bousquet, J Fakir, S Raguin, J Baitieri, R Bemba (Carcassonne), E P?ssier, M Griffi (Lezignan), K Bentley (Lezignan).