Ntamack back for victorious Toulouse in boost for France

Paris, March 6 (AFP/APP):A trio of France internationals including Romain Ntamack made their return from injuries to help guide league leaders Toulouse to a six-try 42-17 victory over Brive in the Top 14 on Saturday.
In what was a perfect boost for France’s coronavirus-hit Six Nations squad, fly-half Ntamack played 69 minutes of the encounter, knocking over two conversions before he was replaced.
But there were wobbles, Ntamack — who had been out since late December with a double jaw fracture — missing two penalties, sending the second-half kick-off direct into touch and was defensively out of position for Brive’s opening try by Fijian winger Eneriko Buliruarua.
There was further good news as blindside flanker Francois Cros, who started six Tests under France coach Fabien Galthie last year, shrugged off a sluggish start to produce a dynamic return to play following a foot injury.
There was not such good news for full-back Thomas Ramos, making his comeback from a groin injury sustained in mid-January.
The playmaker, equally adept at number10, came on as a sub for South African World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe but only lasted 22 minutes before limping off.
Toulouse’s win, with tries to Joe Tekori, Cros, Dorian Aldegheri and Guillaume Cramont along with two penalty tries, consolidated their position as Top 14 leaders.
Ntamack’s comeback could be perfectly timed as France’s third-round match against Scotland was postponed after a Covid-19 outbreak among the squad, including Galthie, three other backroom staff, captain Charles Ollivon and 11 other players.
The French face a fourth-round match away against England on March 13, followed by Wales at home a week later, with the Scotland game possibly re-arranged for March 26.
Ntamack’s place at Test level has been taken by Matthieu Jalibert, who has amassed 20 points in the opening two matches, but there is no doubt the gifted Toulouse playmaker would be welcomed back into the international fold by Galthie, should he prove himself match-fit.
Second-placed La Rochelle are away at Castres later Saturday, while Bayonne entertain Lyon, Pau are away at Bordeaux-Begles, and lowly Agen target a first league win in 18 attempts at Stade Francais.
Toulon host third-placed Racing 92 in Sunday’s game, Alex Lozowski converting three late penalties as Montpellier fought back to beat visiting Clermont 22-16 on Friday.

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