Preview: France v Argentina
THE BOGEY BATTLE: France welcomes Argentina to Lille on Saturday seeking to avoid an 11th defeat by the Pumas since the turn of the century.
As bogey teams go, Argentina give France an itch like no other and have done so for more than two decades.
In 20 years, under five different coaches, various French sides, featuring stars such as Frederic Michalak, Sebastien Chabal and Thierry Dusautoir, have only managed seven victories over the South Americans.
Two of the most notable meetings came at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.
In the opening game, with French fans expecting a positive start to the tournament, Agustin Pichot’s Pumas silenced the 79 000 crowd at Stade de France with a 17-12 win.
Three weeks later, they upset the locals once again to claim third place with a thumping 34-10 victory across Paris at the Parc des Princes.
Twelve years on the sides will meet again in their opening fixture at the World Cup in Japan.
France coach Jacques Brunel doesn’t think this weekend’s result will have any bearing on what happens next September.
“Whatever the result, it will have a very little effect on the World Cup match, even if we think it could have a psychological impact,” he said
“We’re in completely different circumstances, for me that match will be different to the one on the weekend,”
Saturday’s visitors have a French feel, on and off the field. Three members of the Argentine coaching staff – Mario Ledesma, Martin Gaitan and Gonzalo Quesada – have all played and coached in France’s Top 14. Quesada coached Stade Francais to the title in 2015.
Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez has been in France since 2011 playing for Bordeaux-Begles and Toulon and will join Stade after the November Internationals. Second row Tomas Lavanini spent the 2014-2015 season with Racing 92.
Brunel said the familiarity gives Argentina an advantage but it will not be the deciding factor heading into the clash at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
“Clearly they know our players better than we know theirs,” he said.
“It has an implication, but I don’t think it will determine the outcome of the match.”
| Gira de noviembre |
🇫🇷 – 🇦🇷
— Los Pumas (@lospumas) November 15, 2018
Brunel praised the work Ledesma has done since he took over from Daniel Hourcade, who stepped down from his position in June.
“It’s a team which has evolved over the years. They have played with much more ambition since the new coach took over,” Brunel said.
“They’re a quality side, which they’ve showed throughout their games in the Southern Hemisphere.”
Ledesma’s side have lost three successive matches and Brunel’s outfit haven’t won since March’s Six Nations victory over England.
The Pumas lost 28-17 to Ireland in Dublin last weekend and France fell 29-26 to South Africa.
The focus in Lille will be on ending those losing runs, but that date next autumn will be in the back of the two coaches’ minds.
Players to watch:
For France: Gaël Fickou has been in formidable form since joining Stade Francais and will certainly one to look out for. His lethal runs and ability to create gabs could be a huge headache for Argentina. Teddy Thomas’ agility and quick footwork makes him a powerful wing and a danger out wide. In pack No.8 Louis Picamoles and captain Guilhem Guirado are always guys to catch the eye.
For Argentina: Nicolas Sanchez is alwasy a name that takes the spotlight whenever he is on the fireld. The flyhalf will be key to his team success. Talented Bautista Delguy will be handfull, while in the pack workhorses Agustin Creevy and Tomas Lavanini will be crucial up front.
Head to head: There are some intriguing contest on the field. The most critical one is in the midfield of France Mathieu Bastareaud and Gaël Fickou versus Matias Orlando and Jeronimo De La Fuente of Los Pumas. The battle at flyhalf – veteran Camille Lopez (France) against Argentina stalwart Nicolas Sanchez. The other key showdown will be in the scrums, where France captain Guilhem Guirado will be leading his pack against Agustin Creevy
2016: France won 27-0, Tucumán
2016: Argentina won 30-19, Tucumán
2014: Argentina won 18-13, Saint-Denis
2012: France won 39-22, Lille
2012: France won 49-10, Tucumán
2012: Argentina won 23-20, Córdoba
2010: France won 15-9, Montpellier
2010: Argentina won 41-13, Buenos Aires
Prediction: When these two teams meet, the result is always unpredictable. The last time the sides met France walked away with a 27-0 victory. However, that was two years ago and since then Argentina have joined the Rugby Championship and has a newish coach Mario Ledesma. The Los Pumas have shown vast improvement and even managed to secure victories over Wallabies and Springboks this year. France have come close o beating the Springboks last weekend but were forced to settle for the last minutes defeat. Furthermore the Les Bleus do have home ground advantage and is desperate to break their five-match winless streak. Having said that, think this time the visitors will be too powerful therefore Argentina will win it by five points.
France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Arthur Iturria, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Mathieu Babillot, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Anthony Belleau, 23 Benjamin Fall
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Guido Petti, 7 Javier Desio, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Tomas Lezana, 22 Tomas Cubelli, 23 Matias Moroni.
Date: Saturday, November 17
Venue: Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille
Kick-off: 21.00 (17.00 ART, 20.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Sunny, No rain but cold with a high of 10°C and a low of 0°C.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)
AFP & Rugby365com