Scrumhalf Maxime Lucu will start France's Six Nations opener against Ireland this week, as the French begin the campaign without talismanic captain Antoine Dupont, head coach Fabien Galthie said on Wednesday.

Lucu will stand in for Dupont as the former World Rugby Player of the Year misses the tournament in order to prepare to play Rugby Sevens at this year's Paris Olympics.

The 31-year-old will partner Bordeaux-Begles teammate Matthieu Jalibert at halfback, with Toulouse flyhalf Romain Ntamack still suffering from a knee issue.

"He leaves a space, an opportunity for other players to take the shirt," Galthie told reporters of Dupont.

"Maxime Lucu has been with us since we took over, pretty much.

"He's always been very good. It's up to him to take charge of things, with his qualities," Galthie added.

No 8 Gregory Alldritt takes over the captaincy from Dupont for Friday's game under floodlights in Marseille against reigning champion Ireland.

Alldritt, 26, has helped club La Rochelle to back-to-back Champions Cup titles in the past two seasons, under the guidance of former Ireland flyhalf Ronan O'Gara as coach.

"He has a lot of experience with us," Galthie said.

"He plays in a team that is very European, La Rochelle, coached by an Irish coach, Gregory Alldritt has a bit of a different culture."