France have signalled their expectations that star scrum-half Antoine Dupont will be fit for the Six Nations by naming the Toulouse half-back in a 42-man squad.
Dupont has missed the last month because of a knee problem but is in line to return to club action with Toulouse this weekend.
Les Bleus will be handed a significant boost should the outstanding playmaker be ready for full preparations for the tournament, with France’s opener a home clash with Italy on February 6.
Dupont captained France in the autumn in Charles Ollivon’s absence and could continue with the armband given the regular skipper’s long-term recovery from knee problems.
Head coach Fabien Galthie has named four uncapped players in his extended tournament squad.
Clermont prop Daniel Bibi Biziwu and Racing 92 flanker Yoan Tanga are the new faces up front, while Lyon fly-half Leo Berdeu and La Rochelle centre Jules Favre have a chance to impress behind the scrum.
Bordeaux fly-half Matthieu Jalibert has not been included but will be pushing hard to return from a thigh injury in time to prove his fitness and force a way back into the reckoning.
Racing flyers Virimi Vakatawa and Teddy Thomas have squeezed back into the picture too.
Lock Bernard La Roux could pass 50 caps in this year’s competition, and represents one of just four players over the age of 30.