Ex-Bulls lock Paul Willemse, 26, qualifies for his adoptive country on residency grounds, having spent more than three years with French clubs Montpellier and Grenoble. Photo: Henry Browne/Reuters

PARIS – South Africa-born Paul Willemse was one of five uncapped players named by Jacques Brunel on Wednesday in the France squad for the two opening matches of the Six Nations.

Ex-Bulls lock Willemse, 26, qualifies for his adoptive country on residency grounds, having spent more than three years with Top 14 clubs Montpellier and Grenoble.

The Pretoria native received his citizenship in November, after French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte said in December 2016 that possession of a French passport was a requirement for inclusion in the national team.

Fijian-born wing Alivereti Raka, who also received his French nationality in November, has impressed for more than four years at Clermont, but is not included due to a hand injury.

The other new faces are Toulouse’s Romain Ntamack, utility back Thomas Ramos and prop Dorian Aldegheri, as well as La Rochelle second-rower Gregory Alldritt.

Ntamack, a world under-20s champion last year, is the son of former international Emile, who won 46 caps between 1994-2000 for Les Bleus.

Clermont’s experienced pair of Morgan Parra and Wesley Fofana return to the squad after missing the November Tests through injuries.

Wing Teddy Thomas, lock Yoann Maestri and loose forward Mathieu Babillot are also not included due to injuries.

Brunel’s side, which suffered defeats by the Springboks and for the first time Fiji, but beat Argentina in November, kick off their 2019 Six Nations campaign at home against Wales on February 1.

Les Bleus then take on England at Twickenham on February 10.

France Squad

Forwards (17): Dorian Aldegheri, Gregory Alldritt, Uini Atonio, Demba Bamba, Pierre Bourgarit, Yacouba Camara, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Arthur Iturria, Felix Lambey, Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux, Julien Marchand, Louis Picamoles, Jefferson Poirot, Dany Priso, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Paul Willemse.

Backs (14): Mathieu Bastareaud, Anthony Belleau, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Antoine Dupont, Gael Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget, Camille Lopez, Maxime Medard, Romain Ntamack, Morgan Parra, Damian Penaud, Thomas Ramos, Baptiste Serin.

AFP