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Preview: Argentina v France

Fri, 15 Jun 2012 07:16
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Argentina to sneak a dour arm-wrestle by less than 10 points
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French wing Yoann Huget insists he will have nothing to prove when he returns to international duty for the first time since being caught in a doping storm which cost him a place at the World Cup.

The 24-year-old Bayonne star, who has played seven times for the national side, was banned for three months in 2011 by the French Rugby Federation for breaking dope testing whereabout rules.

He was also slapped with another month's suspension by the French Anti-Doping Agency - the cost being cold-shouldered for the World Cup where France reached the Final.

"I have nothing to take revenge for. I just need to be a little more responsible. But as far as the past is concerned, it's forgotten," he said ahead of France's Test against Argentina in Cordoba on Saturday.

"It's a source of motivation."

Saturday's match will be followed by a second Test against the Pumas next weekend in Tucuman.

"This a young squad. We have said that if the adventure goes well, it'll perhaps be a squad that can go a long way," added Huget.

Fullback Brice Dulin and hooker Yvan Watremez are two new faces in the starting line-up in Cordoba and both expect a tough examination against an Argentina team which has bigger dates ahead this summer.

As part of the expanded Tri-Nations, now re-branded as the Rugby Championship, the Pumas will face New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

"To play for France is a childhood dream," said Watremez. "A lot of people would like to be in this situation.

"But we know it'll be a tough match. The Pumas are huge up front and give nothing away."

Argentina coach Santiago Phelan has made six changes to the starting XV which played in last week's 37-22 win over Italy.

In the front row Eusebio Guinazu moves from hooker to loosehead prop where he replaces Rodrigo Roncero.

Guinazu's place at hooker will be taken by Bruno Postiglioni while Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro moves in at tighthead. At lock Esteban Lozada returns from injury along with flanker Tomas De la Vega.

Julio Farias Cabello and Tomas Leonardi, who played in the second row and at openside flanker against Italy, move to blindside flanked and number eight respectively.

In the backs, left wing Manuel Montero and fullback Roman Miralles have been called up with Joaquin Tuculet switching from full-back to centre to play alongside captain Felipe Contepomi.

Argentina's first Rugby Championship clash will be against the Springboks on August 18.

Players for watch:

For Argentina: The Pumas' scrum came under increased pressure last week and they even conceded a penalty try. Like the Italians, the French love scrumming, so there is no doubt the set pieces are a target for the visitors - where the revamped combination of Francisco Tetaz Chaparro, Bruno Postiglioni and Eusebio Guinazu will be in the spotlight. The latter, Guinazu, is a utility who started out as a hooker and can now play in all three front row positions. His durability will be tested.

For France: There are two rookies in the team - Brice Dulin at fullback, with his booming boot winning him a start, while loosehead prop Yvan Watremez will make his debut in what could be an interesting tussle. You always expect the unexpected from the French, especially with backline players like Wesley Fofana, Florian Fritz and Francois Trinh-Duc, while Morgan Parra should be the steadying influence. You would also look out for Sharks star Frederic Michalak if/when he comes off the bench.

Head to head: The most intriguing would be in the midfield, where Argentine captain Felipe Contepomi, always a key player for the Pumas, will front up to Florian Fritz of France, a seasoned player from Toulouse who has struggled to hold down a regular starting place since his debut against South Africa in 2005. He now has a chance to make the No.12 jersey his own. If it is excitement you want, don't bother with the fullbacks, but Roman Miralles (Argentina) and rookie Brice Dulin (France) are both prodigious kickers of the ball.

Recent results:
2010: France won 15-9, Montpellier
2010: Argentina won 41-13, Buenos Aires
2008: France won 12-6, Marseille
2007: Argentina won 34-10, Paris (World Cup third-place play-off)
2007: Argentina won 17-12, Paris (World Cup pool match)
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: Over the years Argentina have become a bit of a bogey team for France, mainly because so many of their players play in France and know the French inside-out. The Pumas have won seven of their last 10 encounters with Les Bleus - most notably beating them twice in the 2007 World Cup. France have not won in Argentina since 1998, which tells you why most bookies would fancy the Pumas. Argentina to sneak a dour arm-wrestle by less than 10 points.

Teams:

Argentina: 15 Roman Miralles, 14 Belisario Agulla, 13 Joaquin Tuculet, 12 Felipe Contepomi (captain), 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas De la Vega, 7 Tomas Leonardi, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Esteban Lozada, 4 Benjamin Macome, 3 Francisco Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Bruno Postiglioni, 1 Eusebio Guinazu.
Replacements: 16 Andres Bordoy, 17 Pablo Henn, 18 Rodrigo Bruno, 19 Rodrigo Baez, 20 Tomas Cubelli, 21 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 22 Facundo Barrea.

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 13 Wesley Fofana, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 7 Louis Picamoles, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Pape (captain), 3 David Attoub, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Yvan Watremez.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Romain Taofifenua, 19 Alexandre Lapandry, 20 Maxime Machenaud, 21 Frederic Michalak, 22 Maxime Mermoz.

Date: Saturday, June 16
Venue: Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes, Córdoba
Kick-off: 18.10 (21.10 GMT)
Expected weather: Mostly cloudy and cool, with a strong chance of ran. A high of 15°C, a low of 5°C
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

AFP & rugby365

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