France v Australia - Teams and Predictions
PREVIEW: Australia will have a mountain to climb against Six Nations champions France, rated by many as next year‘s World Cup favourites, when they meet at the Stade de France stadium in Paris on Saturday.
Even former Australia playmaker Matt Giteau believes the Wallabies are in for a difficult time against a “super-confident” France, hosts of the 2023 World Cup.
Giteau won three European Cups and a Top 14 title as part of a star-studded squad in a six-year spell at Toulon.
“France look like a team that’s super confident with what they’re doing and they feel, similar to Toulon, if we played well we could beat any team,” Giteau told AFP from his Canberra home.
“It will be very difficult for the Wallabies.”
Les Bleus, who can claim a record 11 straight Test wins at the Stade de France, have four former junior world championship winners in their matchday squad.
“France at the moment, they are getting a lot of confidence from the juniors,” said Giteau.
“They were successful in the junior world championships and it’s almost like that same group has stepped up into the main competition and they’ve learnt the habit of winning.”
The European champions are currently ranked second in the world and Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was adamant that Les Bleus are at the moment without an equal on the global stage.
Since the French lost to the Wallabies in Brisbane in July 2021, they’ve been unbeaten, winning a Six Nations Grand Slam and on Saturday could become the first generation of Les Bleus to win 11 straight Tests.
“We’re well aware this side’s the best in the world, regardless of what the rankings say,” Rennie told reporters.
“They’re unbeaten in about 15 months, they’ve beaten No.1-ranked side Ireland, so we’re looking forward to the challenge. We’re certainly going to go out there and give it a crack.”
Rennie said he believed the Gallic ascent has been clear for a number of years.
“The best French players play in France, the most money in the rugby world is in France, so their best players don’t leave. As a result, they’ve got access to their very best.
“There’s phenomenal depth in the club sides here, 28 professional sides up here so there’s a hell of a lot of quality players to pick from – and they’ve done it well.
“They play a simple game. They’ve got massive forwards, good athletes, their backline can play when they want too, but they play a lot of territory and back their defence.”
Not to mention having one very special player in scrumhalf Antoine Dupont.
“He’s incredible,” said Rennie. “Unbelievable running game and kicking game, he kicks well off both feet and incredibly long.
After a two-week camp, France’s build-up to their end-of-year rugby Tests was described as “very complete and very intense.”
“We really tried to optimize every minute,” team manager Raphael Ibanez said.
The satisfying result for the coaches was getting star players – flyhalf Romain Ntamack and loosehead prop Cyril Baille – remarkably quickly up to speed from skimpy game time this season and into the team to take on Australia on Saturday at Stade de France.
Ntamack hasn’t played in eight weeks because of an ankle injury, while Baille made his first appearance of the season last weekend off the bench for Toulouse. Yet both are somehow starting for France.
Ntamack was thrown into uncompromising training sessions and passed.
The proof is a 10-Test winning roll, matching France’s national record from the 1930s.
The streak includes a first Six Nations grand slam in 12 years and a 2-0 series win in Japan in July.
Players to watch
For France: France named a formidable outfit for the Paris Test, headed by their superstar scrumhalf Antoine Dupont. Dupont will be boosted by the return of his halfback partner Romain Ntamack following his recent injury troubles. Charles Ollivon, who missed France’s triumphant Six Nations campaign due to a lengthy injury lay-off, starts at flank and joins Gregory Alldritt and Anthony Jelonch in the back row.
For Australia: The Wallaby coach, Rennie has promoted fullback Jock Campbell, centre Lalakai Foketi, scrumhalf Nic White and prop Taniela Tupou to start in Paris, with only one of the four changes forced upon the coach. Tupou replaces Allan Alaalatoa, who was ruled out after showing concussion symptoms at half-time in Australia’s tour-opening 16-15 win over Scotland. The Wallabies have only fielded the same starting XV once during Rennie’s 31-Test tenure, raising concerns his side will lack cohesion at next year’s World Cup in France.
Head to head
Prediction: @rugby365com: France by 15 points.
France: 15 Thomas Ramos; 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Yoram Moefana; 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain); 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Anthony Jelonch; 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Cameron Woki; 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Sipili Falatea, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Killian Geraci, 21 Sekou Macalou, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Matthieu Jalibert
Australia: 15 Jock Campbell; 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Tom Wright; 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nic White; 8 Rob Valentini, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jed Holloway; 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Nick Frost; 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 David Porecki, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Matt Gibson, 18 Tom Robertson, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Hunter Paisami,23 Reece Hodge
Date: Saturday, November 5
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21:00 (20:00 GMT; 07:00, Sunday November 6 AEDT)
Expected weather: Light rain and a gentle breeze. High of 14°C and a low of 11°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)