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Six Nations 2018: six tournament newcomers to watch out for | Robert Kitson

France have a back-row who makes even Maro Itoje appear sluggish, while another brilliant Leinster product can shine

Sekou Macalou (France): Pretty much everyone has given up on French rugby. Even when they are not sacking their national coach or having their national training centre raided by police investigating the alleged activities of Bernard Laporte, president of the French Federation, Les Bleus are still widely seen as a shambles. And yet, when it comes to promising young players, France possess two of the most dazzling diamonds in the tournament in the form of Matthieu Jalibert, their new 19-year-old whiz-kid of a fly-half, and Sekou Macalou, a 22-year-old back-row who makes even Maro Itoje appear sluggish. The gifted Jalibert has the full palate of skills but it could just be the marginally more experienced Macalou who gives Ireland most trouble in round one. Big, strong, athletic and mobile, the flanker shone against the All Blacks in the autumn and is the latest impressive talent to emerge from the tough Parisian banlieues. France have some exceptional individual talent; it simply needs harnessing.

Related: Six Nations 2018: how will your team perform this year?

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