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Dumortier’s superb form earns him first France cap for Six Nations opener

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Ethan Dumortier, the leading try scorer in the Top 14 this season, will make his Test debut for Six Nations champions France in the opening match of their title defence against Italy in Rome on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Lyon wing has scored 11 tries this season — eight in the Top 14 and three in the Champions Cup — and the sevens specialist gets his chance due to the injury to Gabin Villiere.

“He made a strong impression when he came to work with us,” said head coach Fabien Galthie.

“We wanted him to evolve like this, as is the case with his club Lyon and now with us.”

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Dumortier’s debut aside the rest of the starting XV features many of the key players in France’s Grand Slam success last year with the 2023 Rugby World Cup hosts on a 13 match winning streak.

Scrum-half Antoine Dupont, the 2021 World Player of the Year who captains the team, forms a formidable half-back partnership with fly-half Romain Ntamack.

Galthie said despite the title last year and the many compliments about their playing style he and the players were not going to rest on their laurels after three years of hard work.

They have their crown to defend but that is the first course before the main one later in the year trying on home soil to become the first France side to lift the World Cup trophy — they have lost three times in the final.

“We were second in the preceding two Six Nations tournaments before we won,” he said.

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“We believe that the journey is far from over. We will only get better, we will continue to make progress.

“Our team is still not fully mature in terms of test rugby, agewise, caps or experience.

“Whatever happens in the tournament results wise we will make progress.”

Galthie, 53, said he expected no presents from Italy who have shown a marked improvement since Kieran Crowley took over as head coach — beating Wales and Australia last year.

“We have left little to chance, preparing for chaos and all the possible scenarios,” said the former France scrum-half and captain.

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“A magnificent Italian side, who are reaping the rewards.

“They are a sublime opponent, it is an extraordinary challenge.”

Galthie and his coaching staff also displayed their gratitude to former French Rugby Federation (FFR) president Bernard Laporte.

The 58-year-old resigned last week after being convicted of corruption in December.

However, France’s rugby manager Raphael Ibanez said they had invited him to a gathering on Thursday evening.

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“Our ambitions are purely sporting ones and nothing to do with the political machinations,” he said.

“Yesterday evening we invited Bernard Laporte to join us: the World Cup is being organised in France, that is down to him.

“The current set up, the training conditions and the staff is also down to him.”

Laporte has been replaced it was revealed on Friday by the FFR treasurer Alexandre Martinez, who will be acting president until the federation’s general assembly in Lille in June.

Team (15-1)

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Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Yoram Moefana, Gael Fickou, Ethan Dumortier; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (capt); Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Anthony Jelonch; Paul Willemse, Thibaud Flament; Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille

Replacements: Gaetan Barlot, Reda Wardi, Sipili Falatea, Romain Taofifenua, Thomas Lavault, Sekou Macalou, Nolann Le Garrec, Matthieu Jalibert

Coach: Fabien Galthie (FRA) 

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

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Sinisterra signs long-term deal with Bournemouth

Luis Sinisterra has made his move to AFC Bournemouth from Leeds United permanent, signing a long-term deal with the Premier League team on Friday.

Bournemouth reportedly agreed to a £20 million fee with Championship (second-tier) side Leeds.

The 24-year-old Colombian had been impressive since joining Bournemouth in September on a loan spell from Leeds United, with three goals and three assists in his 17 appearances.

“I’m really happy to make this move. I’m excited to play for Bournemouth for the long term,” Sinisterra said. “I feel really comfortable here and the fans are really nice. When I meet them in the streets, they show the love.”

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Andoni Iraola’s team are 12th in the table on 27 points, but are winless in their last four games. They play Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday. 

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

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Son and Bissouma ready for Spurs game with Brighton

 Son Heung-min and Yves Bissouma returned to Tottenham Hotspur this week from international duty, and both are ready for Spurs’ game with Brighton & Hove Albion, manager Ange Postecoglou said on Friday.

Son was involved with South Korea at the Asian Cup where they lost to Jordan in the semi-final on Tuesday while Bissouma’s Mali exited the Africa Cup of Nations last weekend at the quarter-final stage.

Spurs, fifth in the standings on 44 points, host Brighton on Saturday, with Roberto De Zerbi’s side in eighth place on 35 points.

“Sonny and Biss they trained well. Sonny did recovery on Thursday and trained today,” Postecoglou told a press conference.

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“He is very disappointed for Korea’s exit, at the semi-final stage you feel so close. But he gave everything for his nation, no-one could question his commitment.

“I spoke to him after and he was keen to be back, so no surprise he was back training straight away.”

The manager also played down concerns over Bissouma, after media reports that he had played through the illness with malaria at the tournament.

“No, that’s not right. He had a slight form of malaria before the tournament, but it cleared up by the start of tournament. He’s 100 percent now.”

Manor Solomon hasn’t played since September and Postecoglou confirmed that the winger had another procedure on his knee earlier this week and is still another two or three weeks away from a return.

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Another injury concern was Giovani Lo Celso who missed the last three league games for Spurs.

“Lo Celso trained all week but he’s missed a fair bit of football so we’ll see whether he needs another week or not,” the manager said.

“It’s probably, for want of a better word, the healthiest squad we’ve had for quite a while anyway.”

Spurs conceded an added-time equaliser at Everton last weekend and lost to a late Nathan Ake goal against Manchester City in the FA Cup, but conceding late is not something that overly concerns their manager.

“It’s disappointing to concede goals at any point. People will want to analyse it,” Postecoglou said.

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“I’m sorry but we’re going to be a team that will score or concede goals late. The way we want to close out games is by trying to score goals late on.

“One thing we’re not going to do is jump at shadows and try to fix the latest thing being analysed.” 

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Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

Fils ends ‘great champion’ Gasquet’s 956 weeks in top 100

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Fils ends 'great champion' Gasquet's 956 weeks in top 100

 Rising star Arthur Fils beat fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the Auckland Classic on Tuesday to end the veteran’s run of more than 18 years in the world’s top 100.

The 19-year-old Fils cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory against the 37-year-old Gasquet, who had enjoyed a remarkable 956 consecutive weeks in the top 100, peaking at number seven in July 2007.

Gasquet was defending the Auckland title and points he won 12 months ago, so the first-round defeat will see him slide down from 76th in the world when new rankings are released next week.

Fils, with a booming serve that produced nine aces, broke at 2-2 in the first set and at 1-1 in the second and applauded Gasquet as he left the court.

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“He’s a great champion. He did an unbelievable career so I’m really happy to play on the court with him,” said Fils, who reached the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Open last week.

“But it was a nice match for my part and I’m really happy.”

In other action, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov looked rusty in his first match since Wimbledon last year, losing Austria’s Sebastian Ofner 6-4, 6-2.

Roberto Bautista Agut was beaten by fellow Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 6-4 and eighth seed Max Purcell of Australia overcame New Zealand’s 716th-ranked wildcard Kiranpal Pannu 6-4, 6-4.

The top four seeds, Ben Shelton, Cameron Norrie, Francisco Cerundolo and Felix Auger-Aliassime, all had first-round byes. 

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