PARIS: Stade Francais prop David Attoub was the surprise inclusion in the 23-man squad announced by France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Thursday for the Six Nations opener with Italy at Stade de France on February 4.
Attoub, 30, was not among the 30 players who attended a training camp in Marcoussis this week.
Two years ago, Attoub was banned for more than a year for eye-gouging during a Heineken Cup match against Ulster.
His only previous international appearance came in 2006 against Romania, but his selection comes at the expense of World Cup squad members Fabien Barcella and Luc Ducalcon.
"When we made the list of 30, I said that it was possible that a player not on the list (could be selected)," said Saint-Andre.
"Since the announcement, Luc Ducalcon has only played 25 minutes with his club (Castres). We wanted to take David Attoub, who has been starting for Stade Francais since the start of the season.
"Stade Francais are having a good season, their scrum is good and we know about the Italians' strength in the scrum."
Saint-Andre also selected flyhalf Lionel Beauxis, loosehead prop Vincent Debaty, uncapped centre Westley Fofana and uncapped lock Yoann Maestri in the squad.
Clermont second-rower Julien Pierre, Montpellier backrower Fulgence Ouedraogo, Toulouse backrower Yannick Nyanga, Toulouse centre Yann David, Toulon outside back Alexis Palisson and Toulouse fullback Clement Poitrenaud were the other players who failed to make the cut from the initial 30-man squad.
Sixteen of the 23 players selected participated at last year's World Cup, while 14 of the 15 players who started in the final defeat by hosts New Zealand were included.
Saint-Andre will reveal his starting line-up to face Italy on Tuesday.
Forwards: Nicolas Mas (Perpignan), David Attoub (Stade Francais), Vincent Debaty (Clermont), Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse), William Servat (Toulouse), Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Francais), Pascal Pape (Stade Francais), Lionel Nallet (Racing-Metro), Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse, capt), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse).
Backs: Morgan Parra (Clermont), Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz), Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Lionel Beauxis (Toulouse), Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan), Aurelien Rougerie (Clermont), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Julien Malzieu (Clermont), Maxime Medard (Toulouse)