PARIS (Reuters) - France discarded misfiring flyhalf Frederic Michalak and called up uncapped Jules Plisson in naming a 30-man preliminary squad for the Six Nations championship on Monday.
Uncapped backs Geoffrey Palis and Hugo Bonneval and flanker Antoine Burban were also selected by manager Philippe Saint-Andre for a week-long training camp before the squad is reduced to 23 players ahead of the opening game at home against England on February 1.
The absence of Michalak was expected with the flyhalf experiencing a difficult season with his club Toulon, for whom he has started only two out of 16 league games so far.
“Michalak has been with us for two years but he currently needs to play more with Toulon,” Saint-Andre said.
With his possible replacement Camille Lopez out through injury, Saint-Andre turned to Stade Francais’ Plisson who briefly featured in the squad last year.
Plisson has been regularly preferred to South Africa’s Morne Steyn at Stade, leading the Paris outfit to second spot in the French Top 14.
“He has improved, he’s a young French player with great potential, who plays a lot and we have faith in him,” Saint-Andre told a news conference.
Saint-Andre said winger Palis had been selected for his try-scoring potential.
“He is gaining ground at (his club) Castres. He can be a very, very great scorer and we lack scorers in France.”
France, who finished bottom of the Six Nations in 2013 with only one victory, are without several injured key players, including scrumhalf Morgan Parra, centre Florian Fritz and winger Vincent Clerc.
Forwards: Thomas Domingo, Yannick Forestier, Benjamin Kayser, Dimitri Szarzewski, Nicolas Mas, Rabah Slimani, Alexandre Flanquart, Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Antoine Burban, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Bernard Le Roux, Yannick Nyanga, Damien Chouly, Louis Picamoles
Backs: Jean-Marc Doussain, Maxime Machenaud, Jules Plisson, Rémi Talès, Mathieu Bastareaud, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Mermoz, Sofiane Guitoune, Yoann Huget, Maxime Medard, Geoffrey Palis, Hugo Bonneval, Brice Dulin
Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Justin Palmer