Friday, June 15, 2012

Argentina vs France - First Test Preview

The birth of Los Pumas as a global power is seen by many as being in Rugby World Cup 2007 when Argentina so famously defeated the host nation to open the tournament by turning it on its head. That match, however was far from being the birth of Los Pumas as a global giant. Ten years years, Argentina had hosted Australia and won against a powerhouse team led by John Eales. On that occassion, however, little to nothing was made of that. Two years latter Argentina eliminated Ireland from the World Cup en route to qualifying for the Quarter Finals for the first time ever. This saw the start of what has become one of Rugby´s leading rivalries in the professional era: France vs Argentina. Since that afternoon in Dublin, Argentina have won 70% of the matches between the sides. 

The rivalry is very much a friendly one with no hard feelings between supporters of the two countries nor a history of problems. A mutual respect exists that has increased over the course of the past thirteen years as many, and indeed most, of Argentina´ best players have gone on to play professional rugby in France. This has actually seen France helping Argentina become a genuine World Cup contender while the French national team has continued at the same level rather than rise. This, however, is the centre of what rugby is all about. 

New Hooker: Bruno Postiglioni
Neither team is at full strength for this fixture. The long European season and Rugby World Cup 2011 have meant that coaches from both teams have made some interesting and bold selections. Santiago Phelan has geon from six changes to the side that defeated Italy last weekend. The most notable change sees Rodrigo  Roncero replaced by the young Stade Français prop, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro in what is likely to be a make or break performance should he be selected, or not, for The Rugby Championship. Roncero is to rest and decide on his avaliability to fave Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Joining Tetaz Chaparro in the frontrow will be Eusebio Guiñazú and Bruno Postiglioni. Both players are capable of playing in all three frontrow positions and one of the two is likely to be Agustín Creevy´ reserve in the Rugby Championship.  Benjamín Macome will be joined by Esteban Lozada ni the secondrow with Julio Farías Cabello moving to the backrow for this fixture. One of these three should join the 24 man squad for The Rugby Championship.  Backrowers Tomás De la Vega and Tomás Leonardi are also both in contention but they will need massive games vs France on Saturday. They start ahead of Leonardo Senatore who is on the bench. 

Flyhalf: Ignacio Mieres
Phelan´s back selection is similarly far from being made up of household names. Felipe Contepomi will captain the side from inside centre but his centre´ colleague will be Joaquin Tuculet who played fullback vs Italy, his usual position. The change to the midfield is an indication of the lack of options that Phelan has due to the long term injury to Gonzalo Tiesi and the fact that the two players seemingly in line for the position, Marcelo Bosch and Horacio Agulla, are usually used elsewhere. Replacing Tuculet at fullback will be former Castres player, Román Miralles while the wingers will be Belisario Agulla and Manuel Montero, two players who should be in the Pumas long into the future. Calling the options will be Martín Landajo and Ignacio Mieres in the halves. Curiously, none of the 24 players will face France in Córdoba. 

François Trinh-Duc returns at Flyhalf
French coach Phillipe Saint-Andre has handed a starting place to Agen fullback, Brice Dulin, the first of his career. While winger Jean Marcellin Buttin is also very new in the French setup. They will be joiend by Yoann Huget in the back-three after the controversial Bayonne winger has returned to favor after being banned from rugby previously. A mixture of the old and the new in the centres sees Florian Fritz parterning Wesley Fofana while France´ halves pairing of François Trinh-Duc and Morgan Parra is world class. They have both been in superb form this season despite Saint-Andre overlooking both for test duty as other players featured more in the Six Nations this season. Trinh-Duc surprzingly lost his spot to Lionel Beauxis who had a poor tournament in the Six Nations and was also not able to impress for Toulouse in the Top 14 or Heineken Cup. He appeared to only have been able to have reclaimed the French 10 shirt due to his club´ form. 

Debutant: Yvan Watremez
Seven days after winning a second consecutive Top 14 title, Louis Picamoles will play for his country as a key player in the backrow. He will be joined from former clubmate, Fulgence Ouedraogo. They played together at Montpellier for several seasons before Picamoles took up an offer to join Toulouse. They will be joined by Biarritz´ Wenceslasa Lauret in the backrow. The secondrow lacks quality lineout winners but has two players with massive workloads around the park in Yoann Maestri and Pascal Papé, the latter of the two captaining Les Bleus. The frontrow sees David Attoub and Yvan Watremez prop the scrum and Dimitri Szarzewski start at hooker. Watremez is on debut and, impressively, kept Fabien Barcella out of the team at Biarritz this past season. He will have the support of an experienced hooker and tighthead prop and also knowledge of the opposition as he is teammates with Eusebio Guiñazú who will start at loosehead prop for Argentina.

History: Matches between the two countries dates back to 1949 when Argentina hosted France, losing 5-0 in Buenos Aires. There have been a total of 44 test matches played between the two with France winning 32, Argentina 11 and one match was a draw. Such has been the significant immprovement of Los Pumas in the professional era that Argentina have won seen of the past ten matches and France´s last win in Argentina was in 1998. The last time the teams faced in Argentina saw a record scoreline as Argentina ran riot while the last test between the sides was a tryless 15-9 win for France in Montpellier in November 2010.

Key Match-Up: France´s best new find since the World Cup has been Wesley Fofana. His clash with Joaquin Tuculet who did so well at fullback vs Italy will be interesting. One in from them is Florian Fritz vs Felipe Contepomi, two of the most well known backs in each side. The flyhalf battle of François Trinh-Duc vs Ignacio Mieres will see two in form players coming off top seasons for the clubs. A battle for the future of Jean Marcellin Buttin vs Manuel Montero promises to be spectacular while the true ability of Martín Landajo should be far more certain after he faces Morgan Parra. Tomás Leonardí vs Louis Picamoles will be impotant from the abse of the scrum as will be the two new faces of Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro and Yvan Watremez in the frontrow. However the real clash to look out for will be on the side of the scrum in the 7 shirts  in the form of Tomás De la Vega vs Fulgence Ouedraogo. These two young and mobile scavengers have differing histories but both can already be called certainties for Rugby World Cup 2015. Whoever can be faster to the breakdown and make more tackles will give his side a massive advantage.

Prediction: In theory France have a much stronger team due to the heavy influence of players from Clermont and Toulouse. The side is weakened, however, as there are a lot of World Cup players missing including the player of the tournament, Thierry Dusautoir, winger Vincent Clerc and scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvilli. There have also been some retirements including William Servat and Julien Bonnaire while Maxime Mermoz is injured. Argentina minus 24 is seemingly not likely to be overly competitive, but the team consisting mainly of Los Pampas players have been together much longer than France and have been playing an attacking brand of rugby. Conversly, neither Top 14 Semi Final nor the Final itself had tries. The Puams side, however, is just to raw to take on Les Bleus even at home. France to win by 6 points.

1 Eusebio Guiñazú (Biarritz, France)
2 Bruno Postiglioni (Los Pampas XV)
3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Stade Français, France)
4 Benjamín Macome (Los Pampas XV)
5 Esteban Lozada (Agen, France)
6 Julio Farías Cabello (Los Pampas XV)
7 Tomás De la Vega (Los Pampas XV)
8 Tomás Leonardi (Los Pampas XV)
9 Martín Landajo (Los Pampas XV)
10 Ignacio Mieres (Exeter Chiefs, England)
11 Manuel Montero (Los Pampas XV)
12 Felipe Contepomi (Stade Français, France)
13 Joaquín Tuculet (Grenoble, France)
14 Belisario Agulla (Agen, France)
15 Román Miralles (Los Pampas XV)

Reserves: 16 Andrés Bordoy (Pau, France), 17 Pablo Henn (Brive, France), 18 Rodrigo Bruno (Los Pampas XV), 19 Rodrigo Báez (Los Pampas XV), 20 Tomás Cubelli (Los Pampas XV), 21 Benjamín Urdapilleta (Oyonnax, France), 22 Facundo Barrea (Los Pampas XV)

15 Brice Dulin (Agen)
14 Jean Marcellin Buttin (Clermont)
13 Wesley Fofana (Clermont)
12 Florian Fritz (Toulouse)
11 Yoann Huget (Bayonne)
10 François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier)
9 Morgan Parra (Clermont)
8  Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)
7 Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier)
6 Wenceslasa Lauret (Biarritz)
5 Yoann Maestri (Toulouse)
4 Pascal Papé (Stade Français)
3 David Attoub (Stade Français)
2 Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Français)
1 Yvan Watremez (Biarritz)

Reserves: 16 Christopher Tolofua (Toulouse), 17 Vincent Debaty (Clermont), 18 Romain Taofifenua (Perpignan), 19 Alexandre Lapandry (Clermont), 20 Maxime Machenaud (Agen), 21 Frederick Michalak (Natal Sharks, South Africa), 22 Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan)

France vs Argentina 2007

France vs Argentina 2008

Argentina vs France 2010

France vs Argentina 2010


  1. Well preview Paul but..France for 6? Ummmmmm

    1. Too hard to pick a Pumas win given there are so many top players missing.