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Facing New Zealand in Rugby World Cup opener ‘a joy’ for France’s Galthie

France head coach Fabien Galthie said on Wednesday it was “an honour” for the host nation to play New Zealand in the World Cup’s opening match as he named a team including Yoram Moefana.

Moefana replaces La Rochelle’s Danty, 30, who suffered a hamstring injury late last month and will miss Friday’s highly-anticipated match at the Stade de France in Paris.

The All Blacks have lifted the World Cup trophy three times and won a 20th Rugby Championship title earlier this year.

“They do it best,” Galthie told reporters. “We’re so happy to play this team.

“For us, Friday is a party, a joy, an honour, it’s marvellous,” he added.

Bordeaux-Begles centre Moefana, 23, is in line to make his 15th Test start — and on the biggest of stages.

“Yoram has three years of experience with us,” Galthie said.

“We’ve worked on a lot of combinations and we have to be able to adapt.

“During this competition there are four group games, then potentially three knockouts. This France team will change,” he added.

There are two other changes from the warm-up win over Australia on August 27 as lock Cameron Woki comes in for the injured Paul Willemse and prop Reda Wardi starts instead of Jean-Baptise Gros.

“At tight-head we have Reda then Jean-Baptiste to finish,” Galthie said.

“We have what we need,” he added.

Controversial Chalureau omitted

As expected, ex-France captain Galthie has decided against including Bastien Chalureau in his matchday squad, with Romain Taofifenua handed the spot among the substitutes he would have occupied.

On Monday, Montpellier lock Chalureau denied he was racist after being at the centre of a row about his inclusion in the squad following a conviction in 2020 for a racially motivated attack, which he is appealing.

On the bench, Galthie has decided to go with five forwards and three backs instead of a 6-2 spit, with centre Arthur Vincent the beneficiary.

France are considered major contenders to win their first Rugby World Cup having lost just twice July 2021 and last suffered defeat at home four months before that.

“With our form we thought we had to balance our power and strength in a more classical way,” Galthie said.

He said he had selected “players who can bring energy at the right time if things aren’t going the way we want it to”.

Toulouse tight-head Dorian Aldegheri has been picked among the replacements ahead of Bordeaux-Begles’ Sipili Falatea, who is Moefana’s uncle.

Aldegheri, 30, has won the Top 14 title three times with his club, and featured for his country just 12 times.

“Dorian is there because he deserves it, he has had an extraordinary path with us and his club,” Galthie said.

“He’s very important for us,” he added.

Les Bleus also play Uruguay, Namibia and Italy in Pool A.

France (15-1)

Thomas Ramos; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Yoram Moefana, Gabin Villiere; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Francois Cros; Thibaud Flament, Cameron Woki; Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Reda Wardi

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Dorian Aldegheri, Romain Taofifenua, Paul Boudehent, Maxime Lucu, Arthur Vincent, Melvyn Jaminet