Mathieu Bastareaud takes part in a France trainig session. Photo: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS - Mathieu Bastareaud was first included and then hours later dropped from France coach Jacques Brunel's Six Nations squad announced on Wednesday after he was banned over a homophobic slur.

Although initially included, Bastareaud received a three-week ban from European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) on Wednesday which ends a day after France's opening tournament match against Ireland on February 3.

Bastareaud's selection was no surprise as Brunel had defended the Toulon back on Tuesday following the controversial comment used by the 29-year-old in a match against Treviso on Sunday that was heard on live television.

Brunel had said on Tuesday that he would "punish" Bastareaud by not selecting him and that he hoped the powerful runner would escape a ban, claiming "I don't believe he could have acted in such a way".

Bastareaud was heard on live television, and later apologised on Twitter for using the homphobic slur against Treviso's Sebastian Negri, seemingly in response to a similar insult.

There had been fears he could receive a longer ban that would see Bastareaud miss the whole of the Six Nations but he will now be available for the trip to Scotland on February 11.

He was replaced by Stade Francais centre Jonathan Danty -- in physiological terms a like-for-like substitute.

In his first squad selection as head of the French team since taking over from sacked veteran Guy Noves last month, Brunel recalled experienced Clermont half-back Morgan Para for his first inclusion in two years.

Brunel dropped out-of-form Montpellier No.8 Louis Picamoles and Toulon fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc, who has lost his place at both club and country to young star Anthony Belleau.

Parra had not played for France since their crushing 62-13 defeat to New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals.

But while Noves constantly tinkered with his half-back pairing -- he picked nine different combinations in his first 19 matches -- Brunel seems to have opted for a measure of stability in recalling Parra.

"It's not for me to explain what was done before, but rather why he's here: because since the start of the season he's put in some amazing performances," said Brunel of scrum-half Parra.

"To me it seems normal that he's in the squad, even more so given the choice of youth at fly-half."

'Childhood dream'

Brunel has picked 21-year-old Belleau and 19-year-old Matthieu Jalibert as his fly-halves, although both Parra and Racing 92 scrum-half Maxime Machenaud can play at No.10.

"Playing for your country is a childhood dream, the ultimate goal," said Jalibert.

"When I started out playing rugby I could never have imagined having this opportunity."

Brunel coached teenager Jalibert at Bordeaux-Begles before taking on the France role.

"If there's a lad I know perfectly, it's Jalibert," he said.

"He's come on in leaps and bounds since the start of the season, he's become experienced, has faced many challenges and each time done pretty well."

Turning his attentions to Picamoles, Brunel said his decision was based on current form.

"I've picked the players who seem most on form at the moment. I expect Louis Picamoles to demonstrate that he wants to challenge once again for the France team and that he puts in some great performances worthy of his potential."

France squad:

Forwards: Eddy Ben Arous, Yacouba Camara, Camille Chat, Paul Gabrillaugues, Cedate Gomes Sa, Kevin Gourdon, Guilhem Guirado, Arthur Iturria, Anthony Jelonch, Felix Lambey, Wenceslas Lauret, Sekou Macalou, Jefferson Poirot, Dany Priso, Rabah Slimani, Marco Tauleigne, Christopher Tolofua, Sebastien Vahaamahina. Backs: Anthony Belleau, Henry Chavancy, Jonathan Danty, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Brice Dulin, Antoine Dupont, Benjamin Fall, Matthieu Jalibert, Remi Lamerat, Maxime Machenaud, Geoffrey Palis, Morgan Parra, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa.

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