Noa Nakaitaci out to take chance after being named in preliminary France squad

Uncapped Clermont winger named in Philippe Saint-Andre’s 31-strong training squad

Clermont Auvergne winger Noa Nakaitaci has been picked in France’s preliminary Six Nations squad. (Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Clermont Auvergne winger Noa Nakaitaci has been picked in France’s preliminary Six Nations squad. (Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images)

 

Uncapped Clermont Auvergne winger Noa Nakaitaci saw the World Cup door swing invitingly open on Thursday as Philippe Saint-Andre beckoned him into the France fold.

Born and raised in Fiji, Nakaitaci moved to France in 2010 when Clermont offered him an academy deal.

And after a false start to his international career in 2013, when he toured New Zealand but did not play a Test, a second opportunity has come along right at the outset of a rugby year that climaxes with the global tournament in England and Wales.

Nothing is assured yet though. Nakaitaci merely features in a preliminary 31-man Six Nations squad, for a training camp ahead of the tournament.

He might not play at all in the tournament, but that did not stop the 24-year-old expressing delight at being invited to train as a member of head coach Saint-Andre’s squad.

Nakaitaci said on Clermont’s Twitter page: “I’ve very happy to be called up to the training camp, it means a lot to me, my wife and daughter are French.”

While Fiji might have offered another route into international rugby, he stressed in a recent interview his commitment to French rugby is absolute.

Nakaitaci told newspaper Le Monde in November he was committed to representing France, saying: “It’s here that I’ve developed and learned a lot.

“It’s here that rugby has become a real job for me. If I continue to play well every weekend, why not play at the World Cup. I don’t think about (playing for) Fiji.”

The trip to New Zealand gave him a taste for international rugby, and the pair of tries he scored in a non-cap tour game against Auckland Blues have remained in Saint-Andre’s mind.

Saint-Andre said at his squad announcement on Thursday: “He toured in New Zealand two years ago and played a very good tour match.

“He has become an undisputed first choice at (Clermont). He is capable of scoring tries and capable of making the difference. He has progressed enormously this season and has had a lot of playing time. He is become one of the best wingers in French rugby. I believe he deserves to come into the group.”

Nakaitaci has indeed started more matches and played more minutes than anyone at Clermont this season, scoring two tries in 14 appearances so far for a team who lead the Top 14.

France enter their training camp on January 25th and emerge on February 1st, beginning their Six Nations campaign against Scotland on February 7th in Paris.

Saint-Andre was asked if his squad selection was made to win the Six Nations, or with a view to the World Cup in the autumn.

“Firstly, to win the Six Nations,” he said in a press conference shown on the French federation website.

“Our objective is to start well in the first match against Scotland. The objective is to play a great tournament, Six Nations 2015, and to win this tournament. I think it’s very, very open.”

Racing Metro prop Eddy Ben Arous also comes back into the squad, as do Bordeaux wing Sofiane Guitoune, Castres centre Remi Lamerat, Toulouse backrower Louis Picamoles, and Toulon lock Romain Taofifenua.

Experienced hooker Dimitri Szarzewski misses out, with Guilhem Guirado and Benjamin Kayser selected ahead of the Racing Metro man.

France Six Nations training squad:

Forwards: Uini Atonio (La Rochelle), Eddy Ben Arous (Racing Metro), Nicolas Mas (Montpellier), Alexandre Menini (Toulon), Rabah Slimani (Stade Francais), Guilhem Guirado (Toulon), Benjamin Kayser (Clermont Auvergne), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade Francais), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Pascal Pape (Stade Francais), Romain Taofifenua (Toulon), Damian Chouly (Clermont Auvergne), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse), Bernard Le Roux (Racing Metro), Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse), Charles Ollivon (Bayonne), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse).

Backs: Rory Kockott (Castres), Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Toulon), Camille Lopez (Clermont Auvergne), Remi Tales (Castres), Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon), Alexandre Dumoulin (Racing Metro), Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), Remi Lamerat (Castres), Sofiane Guitoune (Bordeaux), Yoann Huget (Toulouse), Noa Nakaitaci (Clermont Auvergne), Teddy Thomas (Racing Metro), Brice Dulin (Racing Metro), Scott Spedding (Bayonne).

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