Updated: France name squad for historic Kenya tour
France will become the first full member European nation to travel to Kenya when they play two men’s senior internationals in Nairobi in December for world ranking points.
The matches, on December 2 and December 5 will take place at the Impala Rugby Stadium in the capital (kick off 3pm and 4pm respectively, local time).
Kenya RLF chair, Richard Adhere Nyakwaka, said: “It's a great, historic moment for Kenya rugby league to host the French national team, this will serve as an inspiration to our local development and promote the growth of player numbers in all regions of Kenya.
"KRLF aims to further strengthen its relations with the French embassy and community in Kenya as a result.”
Nyakwaka paid a visit to the French Embassy in Nairobi where deputy ambassador Lionel Fabre formally announced and confirmed the significance of the matches.
“I am proud to announce that the French Rugby League team will play Kenya and this is based on the great partnership between the federations of both countries,” noted Fabre.
“This will be the first time for both teams to play together and I’m sure there will be a great audience to attend the matches.
"Playing France will definitely open a mighty window of opportunity for the Kenya Rugby League national team to play high-level international matches.”
Nyakwaka continued: “This partnership goes a long way in showcasing the friendship between our country and France. The agreement next year is that it will be home and away. We hope that by the time we get to 2025 we will have our women’s teams involved, and also our U18s.”
France head coach for the tour, Maxime Grésèque, has named a strong 20-man squad.
“Playing time will be given to a rejuvenated squad whose players are all from the Elite championship,” he said.
“Kenya is a nation that needs game time and is keen to play against teams in the world's Top 10 to progress.
“These two matches will be a real challenge for both teams, our objective is to be able to integrate these players into the France group with its playing philosophy and principles.
"All the players and staff are looking forward to being in Nairobi and to facing the Kenyans for the first time.”
With the squad mainly comprising players from the domestic Elite 1 competition, the tour is part of a strategy to boost the depth and quality of French international players ahead of qualifying fixtures for the 2026 World Cup.
A similar squad of players travelled to Belgrade to play Serbia in September, winning 74-10, after a 64-0 loss to England in April in Leeds.
“We are going to Kenya with the same philosophy as Serbia; a French team mainly made up of Elite 1 players," Grésèque said.
"With a completely rejuvenated group, we are going to the African continent to face this team for the first time and above all prepare as best as possible for upcoming fixtures.”
An emerging rugby league nation, Kenya first played Italy in 2014 before a period of domestic development before taking part in the 2022 MEA Championships, losing 26-6 to Ghana and beating Cameroon 16-0.
Kenya recently travelled to South Africa, losing 56-12 and 82-2 in back-to-back internationals in early November.
AISPURO-BICHET Guillermo (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan) AUBRY Félix (Carcassonne XIII) BEN ABDESLEM Yacine (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan) BOYER Clément (Carcassonne XIII) BROCAS Luc (FC Lézignan XIII) BUDDEN Hnaloan (RC Saint-Gaudens XIII) CRUNEL Quentin (XIII Limouxin) DALL'ASTA Paolo (XIII Limouxin) FABRE Baptiste (Albi XIII RL) GROSSON Maxime (SO Avignon XIII) HERRERO Clément (Carcassonne XIII) LE CAM Corentin (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan) LEVEILLE Mathias (Albi XIII RL) LOPEZ-BUTTIGNOL Nolan (Carcassonne XIII) MARTY Mathias (Pia XIII) PEDRERO Nittim (Albi XIII RL) PONS Mathieu (RC Saint-Gaudens XIII) POURCHI Baptiste (SO Avignon XIII) SCIMONE Bastien (Catalan Dragons) VERGNIOL Lucas (XIII Limouxin)
AISPURO-BICHET Guillermo (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), AUBRY Félix (Carcassonne XIII), BEN ABDESLEM Yacine (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), BOYER Clément (Carcassonne XIII), BROCAS Luc (FC Lézignan XIII), BUDDEN Hnaloan (RC Saint-Gaudens XIII), CRUNEL Quentin (XIII Limouxin), DALL'ASTA Paolo (XIII Limouxin), FABRE Baptiste (Albi XIII RL), GROSSON Maxime (SO Avignon XIII), HERRERO Clément (Carcassonne XIII), LE CAM Corentin (Saint-Estève XIII Catalan), LEVEILLE Mathias (Albi XIII RL), LOPEZ-BUTTIGNOL Nolan (Carcassonne XIII), MARTY Mathias (Pia XIII), PEDRERO Nittim (Albi XIII RL), PONS Mathieu (RC Saint-Gaudens XIII), POURCHI Baptiste (SO Avignon XIII), SKOUNDRI Wail (Toulouse Olympique XIII), VERGNIOL Lucas (XIII Limouxin).