France v Argentina - teams and predictions
FRENCH FLAIR: France coach Fabien Galthie said it was “no surprise” for regular flyhalf Romain Ntamack to start at centre, with Matthieu Jalibert at No.10 for this weekend’s home Test with Argentina.
Bordeaux-Begles’ Jalibert will wear the No.10 shirt as Toulouse’s Ntamack covers for injured midfielders Virimi Vakatawa and Arthur Vincent.
Jalibert is the league’s leading points scorer this season whilst Ntamack claimed the domestic and European double last term.
“These two players for two years now have been among the best players in the Top 14,” Galthie told a press conference.
“Quite often Romain has played centre with Toulouse, he has a lot of experience there.
“We’ve worked on the Matthieu and Romain association. They’re prepared, they were ready for this eventuality. There’s no surprise,” he added.
Ntamack’s club teammate Thibaud Flament will make his international debut for Saturday’s game at the Stade de France.
Flament, 24, grew up in Belgium, studied at Loughborough University, played for their fifth team and spent a year at Argentine top-flight side Club Newman.
Last season Flament, who starts as Bernard Le Roux has been released back to Racing 92 for this weekend’s Top 14 trip to Brive, joined record 21-time French champions, Toulouse, from English side Wasps.
“You could say he was an oddity, due to his journey, it’s what’s interesting. A globe-trotter,” Galthie said.
“As a child, he used to sleep under a France shirt every night, which was on the ceiling. Every night, the last thing he would see was the France shirt.
“I think this player has a unique destiny,” he added.
Jalibert’s domestic half-back partner Maxime Lucu will make his Test bow if he comes off the bench.
Scrumhalf Antoine Dupont will captain the side for the first time with skipper Charles Ollivon suffering from a long-term knee issue.
La Rochelle’s Gregory Alldritt is named on the bench with Anthony Jelonch, who led a second-string side during July’s Test series defeat at the hands of the Wallabies in Ollivon’s absence, at No.8.
Stade Francais back-rower Sekou Macalou is the sixth forward among the substitutes’ bench due to his ability to play on the wing.
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* Meanwhile Gloucester’s Santiago Carreras will start at flyhalf instead of Nicolas Sanchez for Los Pumas.
Carreras, 23, has started just three internationals in the No.10 shirt but deputises for Stade Francais’ Sanchez who is named on the bench after suffering a shoulder problem in last weekend’s Top 14 loss.
“Above all what we want is that Santi is the player who best fits the way this team can develop offensively,” Argentina assistant coach Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe told reporters.
“What Santi can bring to the field is that speed that he naturally has.
“We believe Santi has the ability to create, together with the other fourteen players, a greater volume of play and score a greater amount of points,” he added.
Former Jaguares playmaker Carreras is joined at halfback for Saturday’s game by experienced 32-year-old Tomas Cubelli, who missed the Rugby Championship with a hand injury.
Biarritz’ Cubelli is one of eight changes made by head coach Mario Ledesma from October 2’s loss to Australia.
Tighthead prop Thomas Gallo and left wing Mateo Carreras, flyhalf Santiago’s brother, make their first Test starts.
Gallo, 22, scored twice on his only previous appearance, the loss to the Wallabies, and also claimed a double for Italian club Treviso last month.
“He is following on from how the Rugby Championship ended,” Lobbe said.
“He ended up playing in the last game and between the Championship and the month of November he was playing well,” he added.
Eleven members of the matchday squad play their club rugby in France including the Parisian pair of Sanchez and flanker Marcos Kremer.
“Playing every weekend against these guys who we’ll play on Saturday will give us confidence to say: ‘I know this guy, I know his weaknesses, his strengths’,” former Toulon back-rower Lobbe said.
“When you know what can happen in front of you, you’re more confident and it allows you to play better,” he added.
Los Pumas head to Italy next weekend before finishing their end of year tour against Ireland on November 21.
Players to watch
France coach Fabien Galthie has named fly-half pair Matthieu Jalibert and Romain Ntamack together in his starting lineup for the first time with Ntamack moving across to inside centre to deal with injuries to the off-loading genius of Virimi Vakatawa and the consistent Arthur Vincent.
During the week, former Les Bleus captain Galthie said the coaching staff had been considering the option to align the Top 14’s leading points scorer in Jalibert and Ntamack, who won the French league and European Cup last term, for a while.
During Wednesday’s training session, Jalibert and Ntamack shared the playmaking responsibilities at first receiver in open play and the weight of kicking at the posts has been lifted off their shoulders with full-back Melvyn Jaminet given the job.
After Argentina’s only Super Rugby franchise, the Jaguares, were disbanded due to financial issues related to the COVID-19, a majority of Mario Ledesma’s squad were forced to look for professional contracts abroad.
Since the outfit was dissolved the Pumas have won just three out of their 13 matches but did beat New Zealand for the first time last November.
Eleven of Ledesma’s matchday side on Saturday feature for clubs in France with two of them, flanker Marcos Kremer and replacement outside-half Sanchez, at Paris’ Stade Francais while loose forward Pablo Matera, left Stade Jean-Bouin last season.
The final member of Kremer and Matera’s back row, Facundo Isa, is in fine form after scoring the crucial try in Toulon’s win over Biarritz in the Top 14 last weekend.
Head to head
@rugby365com: France by 12 points
France: 15 Melvyn Jaminet, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Romain Ntamack, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain), 8 Anthony Jelonch, 7 Cameron Woki, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Jean-Baptise Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Gregory Alldritt, 21 Sekou Macalou, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Jonathan Danty.
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Rodrigo Martinez, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Lucio Cinti.
Date: Saturday, November 6
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT; 17.00 Argentina time)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy skies early, followed by increasing clouds with showers developing later at night. High of 12°C, low of 7°C
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)