Pool A preview: France v Canada
The neutrals will be backing Canada to pull off a second upset at the World Cup when they take on France in Napier on Sunday.
The Canucks beat a fancied Tonga side 25-20 to get their Pool A campaign off to a flying start, while the French stuttered to a 47-21 victory over Japan in their opener.
"This is the World Cup and you've got to go out there and try to win each game," Canada's Kiwi coach Kieran Crowley vowed after the Tonga win.
Fullback James Pritchard added that he and his teammates, among them only two full-time professionals and a mere handful more playing at second division level, wanted to gain some respect.
"The rest are amateurs," he said. "So all we want is some respect because although these guys might not be full-time professionals, they can play some rugby.
"We really have to do it on Sunday for people to take us seriously. And what better way to do that than against the French.
"They are world-beaters on their day, but they also have bad days like in the Six Nations when they were rolled by Italy."
He added: "This is big, we've drawn a line in the sand (against Tonga) and we can't go back from that performance."
France coach Marc Lievremont wielded the axe after the Japan game, with only four players retained.
Veteran Aurelien Rougerie moves from centre to the wing and is named as captain in place of Thierry Dusautoir - who does not make the bench - while the only other survivors from the starting XV are hooker William Servat, flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc and wing Vincent Clerc.
Imanol Harinordoquy, subject to an angry tirade from Lievremont that he had not taken the Japan game seriously enough, is dropped to the bench with Louis Picamoles replacing Raphael Lakafia at No.8, and flankers Fulgence Ouedraogo and Julien Bonnaire stepping in for Dusautoir and Harinordoquy.
"Everyone is in the same boat, we have got to do better, to fully apply ourselves," said centre Maxime Mermoz.
Recalled fullback Damien Traille stressed that the priority on Sunday would be to concentrate on getting all five points available against the Canadians.
"We know what is coming up, but we don't have the time to start thinking about the All Blacks," he said of their pool game against hosts New Zealand on September 24, with their group phase completed on October 1 against Tonga.
"We saw last weekend that there are no longer any minnow teams in this competition."
Canada coach Crowley, however, has had to nurse his team through a turnaround of just four days, something the former New Zealand selector and All Black fullback said made him "laugh".
"The tier two nations only have four days' turnaround and tier one has seven or eight days," said Crowley.
"It is what it is," he added. "We knew that this is what it would be like when the draw came out."
Players to Watch:
For France: Firstly, you want to see in what frame of mind the entire French team turns up. If they are switched on, it could be a long day at the office for Canada. A backline with Damien Traille, Vincent Clerc, David Marty, Maxime Mermoz, and Aurelien Rougerie could be awesome to watch. But the front row of Luc Ducalcon, William Servat and Jean-Baptiste Poux could be more than just a handful for the Canadians in the set pieces.
For Canada: The Canucks' bearded wonder, flank Adam Kleeberger, has already set his stall out as one of the stars of the World Cup and there is no better team to confirm your status against than the French. You will also cast more than just a cursory glance at Canada's South African-born midfielder DTH van der Merwe, another of the stars from their opening win.
Head to Head: One of the most interesting battles will be in midfield, where the established French duo of David Marty and Maxime Mermoz will face off against Canadians DTH van der Merwe and Ryan Smith. The set-pieces will also be key - the line-outs, where Romain Millo-Chluski and Pascal Pape (France) are up against Jamie Cudmore and Jebb Sinclair (Canada), while in the scrums it will be Luc Ducalcon, William Servat and Jean-Baptiste Poux (France) against Jason Marshall, Pat Riordan and Hubert Buydens (Canada).
2005: France won 50-6, Nantes
2004: France won 47-13, Toronto
2002: France won 35-3, Paris
1999: France won 33-20, Beziers (World Cup pool match)
1994: France won 28-9, Besancon
1994: Canada won 18-16, Nepean
1991: France won 19-13, Agen (World Cup pool match)
Prediction: The romantics would love for a Canadian upset, but the realists will know that anything less than a 20-point loss would be a good result for the Canucks. France to win easily, by 25 points or more.
France: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 David Marty, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Aurelien Rougerie (captain), 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Romain Millo-Chluski, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Dimitri Yachvili, 21 Fabrice Estebanez, 22 Maxime Medard.
Canada: 15 James Pritchard, 14 Ciaran Hearn, 13 DTH van der Merwe, 12 Ryan Smith, 11 Phil Mackenzie, 10 Ander Monro, 9 Ed Fairhurst, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Chauncey O'Toole, 6 Adam Kleeberger, 5 Jamie Cudmore, 4 Jebb Sinclair, 3 Jason Marshall, 2 Pat Riordan (captain), 1 Hubert Buydens.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Hamilton, 17 Scott Franklin, 18 Tyler Hotson, 19 Nanyak Dala, 20 Sean White, 21 Nathan Hirayama, 22 Conor Trainor.
Date: Sunday, September 18
Venue: McLean Park, Napier
Kick-off: 20.30 (08.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Showers expected with a high of 15°C and a low of 6°C.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)
AFP & rugby365.com