World pole vault record holder Renaud Lavillenie will head the French challenge as they host the European Athletics Team Championships ©Getty Images

France will seek to make sporting history in Lille this weekend as the country targets a first victory in the European Athletics Team Championship it hosts here from tomorrow until June 25. 

However, the loss of key sprinters Jimmy Vicaut and Christophe Lemaitre will make that ambition markedly tougher against a field that includes 2014 winners Germany and an ominously talented Polish team.

Eleven countries will compete in the seventh edition of these Championships, which succeeded the European Cup format established in 1965.

The enforced absence of suspended Russia - winners of the last Championship in Cheboksary two years ago - and the selection of a strong team including world pole vault record holder Renaud Lavillenie - raised France's hopes of becoming the third consecutive hosts, after Germany and Russia, to win the title.

However, their prospects have suffered a double blow with the loss of Vicaut, who tops this year's European 100 metre rankings with 9.97sec, due to a torn hamstring suffered at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League meeting in Oslo last week.

Rio 2016 200m bronze medallist Lemaitre, who has a calf strain that may also keep him out of the Diamond League meeting in Paris on July 1, is another key loss.

Hosts France will be looking for maximum points in the European Athletics Team Championships in Lille this weekend from their Rio 2016 discus silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon ©Getty Images
Hosts France will be looking for maximum points in the European Athletics Team Championships in Lille this weekend from their Rio 2016 discus silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon ©Getty Images

The hosts can still call upon athletes of huge experience and achievement such as Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion, who is targeting a sixth win in his seventh appearance at these Championships.

Rio 2016 discus silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon, and double Olympic 3,000m steeplechase silver medallist Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, are other names to watch for the hosts.

Mekhissi-Benabbad will be attempting a 3,000m steeplechase/1,500m double, although the second part of that looks more challenging given the notable victory in Oslo achieved by Britain's selected athlete, 22-year-old Jake Wightman.

Poland, top of the medals table at the most recent outdoor and indoor versions of the European Athletics Championships, are also keen to earn a first overall win.

Their team includes Anita Wlodarczyk and Pawel Fajdek in the hammer and Adam Kszczot and Marcin Lewandowski in the 800m and 1,500m respectively.

There are mighty field event match-ups between Polish and German throwers as Poland's world discus champion Piotr Malachowski faces London 2012 champion Robert Harting, while 20-year-old European indoor champion Konrad Bukowiecki meets double world champion David Storl.

Germany, hoping to regain a title won at home in Braunschweig in 2014, can also call upon Olympic javelin champion Thomas Rohler, already deep into 90m territory this season.

He faces Jakub Vadlejch from the Czech Republic, eighth at Rio 2016, and newcomer Ioannis Kiriazis from Greece who has thrown 88.01m this season.

Greece also boast Olympic and European champion Ekaterini Stefanidi in the pole vault.

The Greek team in Lille includes their Rio 2016 pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi ©Getty Images
The Greek team in Lille includes their Rio 2016 pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi ©Getty Images

Germany's 100m runner Julian Reus will fancy his chances in Vicaut's absence having dipped below 10 seconds - albeit with a following wind - in finishing fifth at the Stockholm Diamond League in 9.99.

Britain, meanwhile, has chosen a team combining experienced performers such as Olympic hammer bronze medallist Sophie Hitchon, European long jump silver medallist Jazmin Sawyers, European 2014 100m bronze medallist Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Rio 2016 Olympian Morgan Lake with 14 athletes representing the country for the first time.

British 400m hurdler Jack Green showed with his fourth place in Sunday's (June 18) Diamond League meeting in Stockholm that he is running into form, and he could earn maximum points if things go well.

Also included in the British team are near full-strength relay squads, which include Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallists from both the 4x100m - Asha Philip, Desiree Henry and Darryll Neita - and 4x400m - Emily Diamond, Anyika Onoura and Eilidh Doyle.

Belarus have world champion Maryna Arzamasava in the 800m and European javelin champion Tatsiana Khaladovich in a competition also involving the Czech Republic’s world record-holder Barbora Spotakova.

Italy will be captained by triple jumper Fabrizio Donato, 41 in August, who tops the European rankings with his 17.32m effort earlier this month, having earned European indoor silver in Belgrade in March.

If the Italian veteran can come out on top, it will be another moment of triple-jumping history for a stadium that witnessed the longest triple jump in history during the 1995 European Cup.

Britain's Jonathan Edwards, who would earn the world title later that summer with two successive world records, the second of which, 18.29m, still stands, reached out to 18.43, only to see the effort disallowed for record purposes because of a following wind.

The latest innovation this year for a Championships that began in their new format in 2009 will be a Friday afternoon start, with a first day’s programme made up of heats in the sprints and hurdles that will produce eight top finishers qualifying for a straight final.