France head coach Fabien Galthie said on Friday he had tested positive for coronavirus, two days before hosting Italy in their Six Nations opener.
Galthie had symptoms on Wednesday before a PCR test a day later and the 52-year-old said manager Raphael Ibanez will take charge of the team for this weekend’s fixture.
“I feel good, I had some small symptoms on Wednesday,” Galthie told AFP.
“But everything has been organised for Sunday’s game since I’ve been in isolation.
“I watch images from training, the staff will take over under the control of Raphael Ibanez.
“Sunday I will be at a distance with a telephone with some brief exchanges, before, after and at half-time,” he added.
Galthie also contracted the illness during last season’s Six Nations which caused the game against Scotland to be postponed.
For Sunday’s game against Italy, Galthie has made two changes from November’s victory over New Zealand.
Lyon flanker Dylan Cretin comes in for Francois Cros while Toulouse hooker Julien Marchand replaces club team-mate Peato Mauvaka.
Marchand, as well as world player of the year Antoine Dupont, fly-half Romain Ntamack, prop Cyril Baille and flanker Anthony Jelonch, who all play for the French and European champions, missed last week’s training camp near Marseille after also testing positive for coronavirus.
Dupont continues to captain the outfit, with regular skipper Charles Ollivon recovering from a long-term knee injury, despite having played just once since December 11 due to Covid-19 and a knee problem of his own.
“They will be fresh because they’ve played very little,” Galthie said.
“The question is more on their form. For the Toulouse players we had barely a week but we found the right balance,” he added.
Bordeaux-Begles fly-half Matthieu Jalibert drops from the bench after suffering from a thigh problem in recent weeks with Toulouse’s utility back Thomas Ramos taking his place.
Youngster Yoram Moefana is set to win just his fourth cap as Galthie opts for five forwards and three backs among his substitutes unlike his six-two split during the autumn victory over the All Blacks.
“We’re preparing for all eventualities, with last-minute withdrawals, we have final tests on Saturday morning,” Galthie said.
“We’re preparing to modify the team without having a negative effect on the team’s confidence,” he added.
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