Australia v France - 2017 Rugby League World Cup
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 03: The French team sing the national anthem before the 2017 Rugby League World Cup match between Australian Kangaroos and France at Canberra Stadium on November 3, 2017 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

France are a shadow of the team they once were in rugby league, but the 2022 World Cup will provide the nation an opportunity to springboard back to prominence.

Played across the channel in England, France last made the quarter-finals in 2013, but have hosting rights in 2025 and will be desperate to begin their preparations for that tournament with a strong performance this year.

And the game in France is beginning to expand just in time.

While we all know the success story of the Catalan Dragons, who, while not taking out a Super League title in the last three years, have been one of the most successful sides to consistently challenge the competition's juggernaut in St Helens.

A two-time runner-up ( in 1954 and 1968), France also have a number of Toulouse Olympique players to call on, with 20 players out of their 24-man squad playing for one of the two French clubs.

While Toulouse have been relegated back to the Championship for 2023, the players who have a year of Super League experience under the belt will be better for the experience.

The other four players outside of the 20 playing for the two French clubs include the nation's fullback who plays for Salford, and a pair of lower level English competition players who will fight for a spot in the 17.

France's group is less than straightforward, with difficult games against England and Samoa alongside Greece, but the European nation's desperation could see them spring a surprise.

Full squad

Lambert Belmas (Toulouse Olympique), Alrix Da Costa (Catalans Dragons), Jordan Dezaria (Catalans Dragons), Morgan Escare (Salford Red Devils), Benjamin Garcia (Catalans Dragons), Tony Gigot (Toulouse Olympique), Mickael Goudemand (Catalans Dragons), Benjamin Jullien (Catalans Dragons), Matthieu Laguerre (Catalans Dragons), Samisoni Langi (Catalans Dragons), Corentin Le Cam (Catalans Dragons), Paul Marcon (Toulouse Olympique), Anthony Marion (Toulouse Olympique), Arthur Mourgue (Catalans Dragons), Eloi Pelissier (Toulouse Olympique), Maxime Puech (Albi RL), Arthur Romano (Catalans Dragons), Cesar Rouge (Catalans Dragons), Justin Sangare (Toulouse Olympique), Paul Seguier (Catalans Dragons), Gadwin Springer (Featherstone Rovers), Maxime Stefani (Toulouse Olympique), Louis Jouffret (Halifax Panthers), Fouad Yaha (Catalans Dragons)

Other nations best 17
» England
» Samoa
» Greece

Spine

France have two very strong options to play fullback, and it's up in the air who they will select to kick the tournament off.

Morgan Escare out of the Salford Red Devils lined up in the number one jumper during France's last game against Wales, but could lose the jumper to Catalans' Arthur Morgue.

He doesn't play in the number one jersey at club level though thanks to Sam Tomkins, who will captain the English side during the tournament.

The halves are maybe the easiest to select out of the whole squad, with Tony Gigot to line up alongside Cesar Rouge for the French. The duo are both experienced, and will be looking for a big tournament, with little in the way of back up included in the squad.

Louis Jouffret out of the Halifax Panthers is an option, as is Anthony Marion, although he will more likely be used in a utility role off the bench given his ability to play multiple positions.

At hooker, Alrix Da Costa should hold his spot from the Wales clash. The Catalan hooker is on the youngster side, but will bring plenty of creativity to Les Bleus.

Backs

The backline will feature some of the more recognisable names to Australian audiences within the French squad.

Samisoni Langi, who made his NRL debut with the Sydney Roosters in 2013, playing three games, before bouncing around in the NSW Cup for a number of years, has since gone onto become a strong force in the Catalan side.

The French-background centre has played 75 games for the Dragons and will line up in the centres for France alongside Arthur Romano, also from Catalan.

The wingers will be Paul Marcon and Fouad Yaha.

Marcon has played five Tests for France since his debut in 2018, with the 27-year-old being with Toulouse since 2013.

Yaha, who has also spent time in rugby union in between two stints at the Catalan Dragons, has played more than 100 games for the club, holding an impressive career try strike rate, and has played three Tests for France.

Matthieu Laguerre is realistically the only back up option for France in the backline.

Forwards

The forward pack's back row is fairly simple to select, with Benjamin Jullien, Mickael Goudemand and captain Benjamin Garcia all being virtually automatic selections into the starting 13.

Garcia will captain in the absence of Theo Fages, who is out injured. Withthe ability to play in the second row, at lock or centre, he will likely take the 13 jumper as he did against Wales.

That leaves the experienced duo of Jullien (16 Tests) and Goudemand (8 Tests) to play on the edge for France, although both have the ability to play in other positions across the forward pack.

Corentin Le Cam provides strong back up on the edge.

The middle third, as always for France, will be sizeable with plenty of power.

Paul Seguier, who started in the second row against Wales, will shift to the front row, while Lambert Belmas will join him in the middle third.

It comes with the starting props from that game Romain Navarrete and Julian Bousquet both missing the World Cup squad.

The closest to miss out on the starting 17 are Maxime Puech and Maxime Stefani, while additional back up in the squad comes in the form of Justin Sangare and Gadwin Springer.

Bench

Anthony Marion takes the first spot on the bench with his excellent utility value. Able to play at lock, hooker or in the halves, he has played three Tests previously for France, but has been a valuable player at Toulouse since his 2014 debut for the French club.

Joining him on the bench is Jordan Dezaria, who despite playing only two Tests, has a long career ahead of him. The 25-year-old has made the leap into Catalans' system and can play prop, lock or second row, giving excellent versatility.

Two props will join the two versatile players on the bench, with Maxime Puech and Maxime Stefani making the 17. Puech brings his own versatility with the ability to play on the edge, while Stefani is unlucky to miss out on a starting spot and will provide plenty of grunt off the bench.

The best 17

1. Morgan Escare
2. Paul Marcon
3. Arthur Romano
4. Samisoni Langi
5. Fouad Yaha
6. Tony Gigot
7. Cesar Rouge
8. Lambert Belmas
9. Alrix Da Costa
10. Paul Seguier
11. Benjamin Jullien
12. Mickael Goudemand
13. Benjamin Garcia (c)
14. Anthony Marion
15. Jordan Dezaria
16. Maxime Puech
17. Maxime Stefani

Key information

Group: A
Coach: Laurent Frayssinous
Captain: Benjamin Garcia
Number of World Cups: 15
Best World Cup performance: Runners-up (1954, 1968)

Fixtures
Tuesday, October 18, 5:30am: vs Greece
Sunday, October 23, 3:00am: vs England
Monday, October 31, 4:00am: vs Samoa