Following France's spirited performance against England, coach Bobbie Goulding is going into the match against Scotland in Perpignan on Saturday with real confidence. Bobbie's decision to stick with Les Bleus after the loss to England Knights was vindicated with a much improved display in Avignon.
"My tactics for the England game worked well and we caused them problems," he said. "Thomas Bosc's kicking game was excellent considering he's not played with confidence for 18months. Both he and Jamal Fakir only wanted to play two games but after Friday they're both staying with the squad."
There were impressive performances from a number of the French players which pleased their coach. "Eloi Pellissier was great. He's coming on in leaps and bounds and he's only had one year in Super League. He's not one for the future, he's for now!"
Centre Mathias Pala was another who caught the eye and repaid the faith shown in him by Goulding. Pala wasn't even a member of the original squad but was drafted in because of injuries. "He's only played three games for the Dragons but he caught my eye in training," explained Bobbie. "He was unlucky not to play against the England Knights and a lot of people said I shouldn't play him against England. But it was my choice and he did well, he does the right things."
The coach has also been encouraged by the number of talented young players coming through, insisting that another two, Damien Cardace and Julian Bousquet are the next in line to break through. "They're only youngsters and haven't played any Rugby League since May but I've always believed that if you're good enough, you're old enough. Bousquet weighs in at 117kilos and is bigger than Eorl Crabtree!"
Bobbie regards the game against Scotland and the following week's international against Ireland in Limerick as real Test matches." You've got to respect Scotland and Ireland and their coaches Steve McCormack and Mark Aston. Steve got Swinton Lions promoted this season and Mark Aston has done a fantastic job with Sheffield Eagles - both teams can play some good football. "They could be very difficult games but if every one of my players gives 100 per cent we could be looking at a big score on Saturday."
Warrington Wolves full-back Ben Hellewell has earned a surprise call-up to the Scotland squad for Saturday’s European Test Series clash with France. Scotland coach Steve McCormack drafted Hellewell into his 18-man pool after he had an impressive season with Warrington's under-20 side, following his move from Bradford Bulls. Hellewell, who was signed for the Bulls by current England coach Steve McNamara, provides cover for Alex Hurst at full-back after Brett Carter remained unavailable following an infection.
Veteran prop Neil Lowe has recovered from a knee injury to join the squad in the south of France after flying out to Barcelona today. Uncapped Edinburgh Eagle Nick Broere retains his place in the squad while Jordan Rice, also uncapped, rejoins the pool following a family bereavement. Hellewell, Broere and Rice are the only players in McCormack’s party who did not play in the 26-6 win over Ireland in Glasgow 11 days ago – all of Scotland’s points-scorers are included – and two will make their debuts.
France are looking for their first win of the Autumn internationals, having lost to England Knights and England in Avignon last Friday. The game takes place at Catalan Dragon’s Stade Gilbert Brutus in Perpignan at 2.10pm UK time.
Romaric Bemba (AS Carcassonne), Olivier Elima (Bradford Bulls), Jean-Philippe Baile, Jason Baitieri, Thomas Bosc, Rémi Casty, Vincent Duport, Jamal Fakir, Cyrille Gossard, Eloi Pellissier, Mickaël Simon, Cyril Stacul, Frédéric Vaccari (Dragons Catalans), Kane Bentley (FC Lézignan), Dane Chisholm (Melbourne Storm), Maxime Greseque (SM Pia XIII), Julian Bousequet, Damien Cardace, Mathias Pala (St Estève-XIII Catalans), Olivier Arnaud (SO Avignon)
Dave Arnot (London Skolars), Josh Barlow (Halifax), Sam Barlow (Halifax), Nick Broere (Edinburgh Eagles), Callum Cockburn (Edinburgh Eagles), Paddy Coupar (Edinburgh Eagles), John Duffy (Leigh Centurions), Ben Hellewell (Warrington Wolves), Andrew Henderson (Sheffield Eagles), Alex Hurst (Swinton Lions), Giles Lomax (Edinburgh Eagles), Neil Lowe (Hunslet Hawks), Crawford Matthews (Hull FC), Lee Paterson (Swinton Lions), Jordan Rice (Univ of Gloucestershire), David Scott (Hull KR), Mike Stewart (Univ of Gloucestershire), Alex Szostak (Sheffield Eagles)