Preview: France v Argentina

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 00:00
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This century's history suggests a victory for Argentina over France in Montpellier on Saturday. After all the Pumas have won seven of the nine matches between the two sides this century.

This century's history suggests a victory for Argentina over France in Montpellier on Saturday. After all the Pumas have won seven of the nine matches between the two sides this century.

Three of those victories have been in France. Two of them were at the 2007 World Cup - one in a pool match and the other (34-10) was in the third-place play-off.

France's two wins this century were by a point in Paris and four kicks to two in Marseille. The points difference between the two sides is 219-153 in the Pumas' favour, an average difference of seven points per match.

There have, of course, been many changes. Of the 34-10 victors Felipe Contepomi, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Patricio Albacete, Mario Ledesma, Rodrigo Roncero and Marcos Ayerza remain. That means there will be none of the attacking skills of Ignacio Corletto and the leadership and spirit of Agustín Pichot who have retired, or the effective skill of Juan Martín Hernández who is on another one of his injury sprees.

Of the vanquished Aurélien Rougerie, Sébastien Chabal, Jérôme Thion and Imanol Harinordoquy will be in action again.

They are different teams.

But then in June this year the Pumas again smashed the French, this time in Buenos Aires. Of that team that won so handsomely 18 will be in action in Montpellier - Martín Scelzo, Mario Ledesma, Rodrigo Roncero, Genaro Fessia, Patricio Albacete, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Nicolás Vergallo, Felipe Contepomi, Gonzalo Tiesi, Santiago Fernández, Lucas González Amorosino, Martín Rodríguez, Agustín Creevy, Marcos Ayerza, Julio Farías Cabello and Mariano Galarza.

Of the French side nine will be playing again - Morgan Parra, Julien Bonnaire, Thierry Dusautoir Lionel Nallet, Nicolas Mas, Guilhem Guirado, Julien Pierre, Dimitri Yachvili and Jérôme Porical.

Maybe it's a good thing for confidence that so many of the Pumas are back; maybe it's a good thing for French morale that so few of those humiliated in June are back in November.

Obviously the Pumas know that they can win again. After all France is not foreign territory as so many play their club rugby in France.

And then France can always pull a surprise.

Neither team was much cop last weekend. Argentina just managed to beat Italy and suffered the ignominy of a penalty try from a scrum. They scored just one try against the Azzurri. France were more comfortable winners against Fiji and scored three tries.

Players to Watch: New faces are always worth watching. Yoann Huguet is big (1.90m, 97 kg) and he scores tries. On the other wing there is small Marc Andreu who, like Christophe Dominici, scoots away for tries. Andreu has four caps, all this year. Fullback Alexis Palisson has seven caps since 2008 and is often a wing. Perhaps this relatively untried back three will attract bombardment from the boot of clever Felipe Contepomi. France has a massive inside three - Aurélien Rougerie, moved in from wing, Yannick Jauzion and Damien Traille. All of them are talented footballers. It will be intrusting to see how they direct their talents. In the French pack you will inevitably notice the hirsute cavemen, Sébastien Chabal, the most charismatic of modern French players. On the Argentinian side you will expect moments of breathtaking magic from Felipe Contepomi and moments of surprising skill from Mario Ledesma who manages most of the time to look lost as he meanders about the field.

Head to Head: The front row against front row with the money on the Puma trio, battle hardened men. The battle of the loose forwards where France have the experienced, tried and tested men while Argentina have relative novices in Miguel De Achaval and Genaro Fessia.

Recent results:
2010: Argentina won 41-13, Buenos Aires
2008: France won 12-6, Marseille
2007: Argentina won 34-10, Paris
2007: Argentina won 17-12, Paris
2006: France won 27-26, Paris
2004: Argentina won 24-14, Marseille
2003: Argentina won 33-32, Buenos Aires
2003: Argentina won 10-6, Buenos Aires
2002: Argentina won 28-27, Buenos Aires Prediction: Looking at history as late as five months ago it seems folly to believe that France will win by five points or more, but that is our prediction.


France: 15 Alexis Palisson, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Damien Traille, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Sébastien Chabal, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Luc Ducalcon, 18 Jérôme Thion, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Dimitri Yachvili, 21 Fabrice Estebanez, 22 Jérôme Porical.

Pumas: 15 Martín Rodríguez, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Santiago Fernández, 11 Lucas González Amorosino, 10 Felipe Contepomi (captain), 9 Nicolás Vergallo, 8 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 7 Miguel De Achaval, 6 Genaro Fessia, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Mariano Galarza, 3 Martín Scelzo, 2 Mario Ledesma, 1 Rodrigo Roncero
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Santiago Guzmán, 19 Julio Farías Cabello, 20 Álvaro Galindo, 21 Alfredo Lalanne, 22 Marcelo Bosch

Date: Saturday, 20 November 2010
Venue: Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier
Kick-off: 20.45 (19.45 GMT)
Expected weather: There is 30 percent chance of rain, with a high of 13°C dropping to 5°C and a wind from the southeast of 21 km/h getting stronger. It will be a cold, miserable night.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

By Paul Dobson