“It's important that we play every match at 100% of our abilities,” said France’s head coach Andrea Giani in an interview for However, this does not mean that he intends to use the 12 Olympic champions on his Volleyball Nations League roster all the time and not give younger players a chance to gain valuable international experience and unveil their potential on the court, defending the 2022 VNL title.

“The objective will be to qualify for the Finals in Poland, but for me there is another equally important objective, which is to give a chance to the young players who have joined us,” Giani pointed out. “The experience of last season shows that it is important that the team leaders have enough rest time after their club season. So we are going to give young people the opportunity to express themselves, especially at the start of this VNL. The goal is to allow them to raise their level of play in international competition. The idea is to prepare for the future, because these young people are called upon to take over from 2025. This new generation must be prepared. Of course, we need to be technically and tactically fit, but what I want above all is players who are on the court at 100% of their potential.”

France’s VNL 2023 roster

Still, France’s long list of 30 players available for the upcoming VNL 2023 contains the names of all 12 athletes who conquered the Olympic top two years ago at Tokyo 2020, as well as 13 of the 14 players who earned the country’s historic first VNL title at the Finals in Bologna last year. And that includes the team’s star outside hitter Earvin Ngapeth, the Most Valuable Player and a Dream Teamer of both competitions, the Best Libero of both competitions Jenia Grebennikov, Tokyo 2020 Dream Team middle blocker Barthelemy Chinenyeze and VNL 2022 Dream Teamers Jean Patry and Trevor Clevenot.

Those Olympic gold medallists, who were not part of Giani’s roster at the VNL Finals last year, are also back on the squad. And while Kevin Tillie did play at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship at the end of last season, middle blocker Daryl Bultor skipped the whole 2022 season altogether.

Giani’s long roster also includes top setters Benjamin Toniutti and Antoine Brizard, powerful opposite Stephen Boyer, talented striker Yacine Louati and impenetrable middle blocker Nicolas Le Goff, all among the heroes who brought home the Olympic title, as well as middle blockers Quentin Jouffroy and Mederic Henry and libero Benjamin Diez, whom the Italian coach relied on to be part of the team at the VNL Finals in Bologna and the World Championship in Poland and Slovenia.

The 30-player list sees the return of some athletes with previous national team experience, who have not been part of the French squad at world-level competitions since 2019, like 28-year-old outside Luka Basic, 27-year-old outside Timothee Carle or 23-year-old opposite Theo Faure. Experienced 33-year-old playmaker Raphael Corre is also back after playing in the VNL Preliminary Phase last year, but not at the Finals or the World Championship after that.

While many of the top stars will take some rest before joining the competition, a few of the above-mentioned – Tillie, Bultor, Jouffroy, Henry, Diez, Basic, Carle, Faure and Corre – will travel to Nagoya, where the French team will start the defence of their title with matches against Poland on June 7, against China on June 9, against Slovenia on June 10 and against Japan on June 11.

Young newcomers like 21-year-old setter Kellian Motta Paes, 21-year-old outside Antoine Pothron, 19-year-old outside Hilir Henno, 22-year-old middle Simon Roehrig and 22-year-old libero Luca Ramon will also have a chance to make their national team debuts during competition week one in Japan.

In week two, France will host one of the pools in Orleans and Giani intends to take to the home court (almost) full force.

“Yes, the group will be complete, including all the Olympic champions, although some players will no doubt be spared, as they are coming off a long season and need more rest to recover or treat minor physical glitches,” he said. “I am referring to Toniutti, Ngapeth and Le Goff.”

After the VNL, France will take part in the CEV European Championship, which will be held from August 28 through September 16. As hosts of the Paris 2024 Olympics, they do not need to play at the FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers this fall, so they are already gearing their take on season 2023 straight towards the Games next year.

“Of course, we have to think about it! It is very important to work from this season on the best possible plan, in order to arrive at the Olympic Games in the best condition,” Giani said. “We also have to work individually with the players because we won't have much time. Once the next club season is over, we will be only two months away from the Games. So it is essential to use this international season and then next winter to prepare as well as possible. It is very important for the team, first, because we are the defending champions, and second, because it takes place in France. There will be a lot of pressure, for sure. Whether it will be positive or negative remains to be seen. It will depend on us.

“I was very happy to receive a proposal from the French federation to work full time and I accepted it with pleasure, because I think it's important for me to have the time to prepare the team as well as possible for the Olympic Games. I will be able to work throughout the season for this objective. I think it's the right way to prepare for the Games.”

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