Matthieu Jalibert was once France's great fly-half hope - but then injury and Romain Ntamack happened. Now, the Bordeaux player has the chance to reopen a long-silent debate

Matthieu Jalibert seems certain to be entrusted with France’s 10 shirt in the injury-enforced absence of Romain Ntamack for this World Cup.

For some time, the two players were the central characters of a debate among rugby fans as to who was the better player, and who would be the better 10 to Antoine Dupont’s nine. 

Related: France’s Romain Ntamack out of World Cup with ACL injury

That debate seemed to be definitively answered when France beat New Zealand at Stade de France in 2021. Now, however, Jalibert has a chance to reopen it.

Ten facts about Matthieu Jalibert

1. Matthieu Jalibert was born on November 6, 1998, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a few miles west of Paris.

2. But his first experience of rugby came thousands of miles away, when he moved with his family to Noumea, in the overseas French territory of New Caledonia, where his soldier father was stationed. The family lived on the Pacific archipelago for three years between 2004 and 2007.

Related: France Rugby World Cup squad 2023

3. He joined CA Bordeaux Bègles on the family’s return to France, playing through the age grades until stepping up to the UBB (Union Bordeaux Bègles) centre de formation as a teenager. At the age of 16, he played in the French under-18 championship, helping Bordeaux to the final of the tournament – where they lost to a formidable Toulon side.

4. The following year, Jalibert joined the UBB Espoirs (academy) squad. He made his debut against eventual Espoirs championship-winning side Perpignan on his 18th birthday.

5. He has a pet dog named Owen, after England fly-half Owen Farrell.

6. An impressive season with the Bordeaux academy attracted the attention of the head of France’s age-grade set-up Sébastien Piqueronies (now the manager at Top 14 side Pau). He was called-up for the France squad for the World Under-20 Championship in 2017, where Les Bleuets finished fourth.

Related: France flex their muscles against Australia

7. Jalibert made his Top 14 debut for Bordeaux at Lyon on September 15, 2017, coming on as a replacement fullback. He alternated between fullback and fly-half early on in his career, starting his first match at Oyonnax in the 15 shirt. He played 15 professional matches in the 2017-18 Top 14 season.

8. After an victorious outing with the French Barbarians against the Maori All Blacks in November 2017, Jalibert was called up to the senior France squad for the Six Nations in January 2018 by Jacques Brunel – his former club coach.

9. He won his first cap on February 3, 2018, as a starter against Ireland – in what is now universally recognised as the Johnny Sexton drop goal match. What’s mostly forgotten is that Jalibert suffered a knee injury that ended his season. Antoine Dupont suffered a significant knee injury in the same match.

10. Jalibert has since had to be content with a supporting role to Romain Ntamack – but with the Toulouse fly-half suffering an ACL injury in the World Cup warm-ups, Jalibert again has his chance to impress.

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