Friday, June 22, 2012

Argentina vs France Second Test Preview

Seven days after the first test in Córdoba the two sides will play the second and final test of the series in the northern Argentine city of Tucumán. Argentina´s 23-20 victory in Córdoba showcased the increasing depth that is at the disposal of headcoach Santiago Phelan. The win, however, was not clinical as despite scoring two tries to one Argentina´s two tries came from French mistakes rather than being created by Argentina with ball in hand. France fielded a team with six players from the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final while Argentina fielded only two from the Quarter Final loss against New Zealand. 

Urdapilleta replaces Mieres at flyhalf
Neither side from the Córdoba test will be similar to that for Tucumán. both coaches have named extremely experiemental starting lineups to the extent that the flyhalf battle will be between Benjamin Urdapilleta and Frederic Michalak. It is the first ever test start for Urdapilleta against a Tier One side with his two previous test starts at flyhalf coming against Chile and Uruguay in 2008. Michalak, similarly will start for the first time on the international stage in five years. The scrumhalf position will also feature new faces with Tomás Cubelli taking on debutant Maxime Machenaud. France´s new centre combination of Maxime Mermoz and Florian Fritz means the highly talented trio of Morgan Parra, François Trinh-Duc and Wesley Fofana will all be on the bench. Fritz will go up against Agustín Gosio in what is likely to be a make or break match for the Puma. With Joaquin Tuculet having impressed in Córdoba in the 13 shirt and Gosio being 29 years old his future as a Puma will depend a lot on how he performs in Tucumán. Benjamin Fall and Yoann Huget are two wingers who have been in and out of the French test side in recent years. Their selection  is on merit, however, as both did well in the Top 14 this past season. Argentina will field two Pampas players against them with Manuel Montero and Facundo Barrea being given the chance to join the list of 24 already named for The Rugby Championship. 

Francisco Goméz Kodela
Back to bolster the scrum
Twelve months ago a Pumas team like the one named would be given no chance of defeating France, even at Tucumán, where Argentina have only ever lost once before. But after defeating both Italy and France over the past two weekends there is plenty of room for optimism and the team named, despite having many changes, is a similar side. The scrum should be improved with Francisco Goméz Kodela starting at tighthead prop in place of Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro. The scrum proved to be an issue in both Córdoba and San Juan but with Andres Bordoy, a prop, starting at hooker the frontow should have more resistance. Bordoy will start his first test for his country at the ripe old age of 29. France has a good frontrow but not one proven at international level as props Vincent Debaty and David Attoub have very few test caps. Dimitri Szarzewski, however, is a very experienced international hooker and has a much better resumé than his opponent. France´s secondrow is firstchoice with two outstanding players with high workloads. Argentina will look to take them on with two players who have a chance of making The Rugby Championship but are not likely to be in the starting lineup. The backrows of both sides, meanwhile are not first choice but are very good. Both have been changed with Leonardo Senatore returning after he missed the first test to get married. 

History: France have not won in Argentina since 1998 and Argentina have won seven of its eight test matches in Tucumán.  The most recent test in the city, however, was not a success as Argentina lost 24-16 vs Scotland in June 2010. On that occassion Argentina scored two tries to zero but gave away too many penalties with Dan Parks´ boot doing the rest. Games between Argentina and France date back to 1949. In total there have been 45 test matches played between the two with France winning 32, Argentina 12 and one match was drawn. Since the advent of professionalism, things have changed significantly, however, as Argentina has won eight of the past eleven matches.

Key Match-Up: There is a lot to look forward to in this Latin showdown. Manuel Montero vs Benjamin Fall is a showcase of two young players all but certain to be playing in Rugby World Cup 2015. Both need strong matches if they are to play regularly given the stocks of both nations. Felipe Contepomi vs Maxime Mermoz is a mouth watering matchup between the best back from Perpignan and from Stade Français in the 2011-2012 season. Joaquin Tuculet vs Brice Dulin is a match of two young gifted and promising players who will be big names in the future. The real clash of interest in this match, however, is in the backrow with two very interesting cominations named. All three battles will be competitive but the one of real interest is that of Tomás de la Vega vs Alexandre Lapandry. The Puma was Argentina´s best player in Córdoba and Lapandry has been superb for Clermont in past seasons. They play different styles of rugby but do so very effectively. The better player of the two will contribute significantly to who wins and who loses this match.

Prediction: On paper the French side is clearly superior. However, Argentina are well known for being a team rather than good players put together. The match is to be the the final time Felipe Contepomi captains his country. With his teamates being reserves and emerging players looking to impress to be selected for The Rugby Championship the players have the added motivation of seeing that Contepomi´s final test as captain, and probable final ever test in Argentina, is a victory. While for France the game carries little importance. Argentina to win by 5.  
15 Joaquin Tuculet (Grenoble, France)
14 Facundo Barrea (Los Pampas XV)
13 Agustín Gosio (London Scottish, England)
12 Felipe Contepomi (Stade Français, France)
11 Manuel Montero (Los Pampas XV)
10 Benjamin Urdapilleta (Oyonnax, France)
9 Tomás Cubelli (Los Pampas XV)
8 Leonardo Senatore (Los Pampas XV)
7 Tomás Leonardi (Los Pampas XV)
6 Tomás De la Vega (Los Pampas XV)
5 Esteban Lozada (Edinburgh, Scotland)
4 Julio Farias Cabello (Los Pampas XV)
3 Francisco Goméz Kodela (Biarritz, France)
2 Andres Bordoy (Pau, France)
1 Eusebio Guiñazú (Biarritz, France)

16 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Stade Français, France)
17 Bruno Postiglioni (Los Pampas XV)
18 Santiago Guzman (Los Pampas XV)
19 Benjamin Macome (Los Pampas XV)
20 Rodrigo Baez (Los Pampas XV)
21 Martin Landajo (Los Pampas XV)
22 Gabriel Ascarate. (Los Pampas XV)

15 Brice Dulin (Agen)
14 Benjamin Fall (Racing Métro)
13 Florian Fritz (Toulouse)
12 Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan)
11 Yoann Huget (Toulouse)
10 Frederic Michalak (Sharks, South Africa)
9 Maxime Machenaud (Agen)
8 Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)
7 Fulgence Ouedraogo (Montpellier)
6 Alexandre Lapandry (Clermont)
5 Yoan Maestri (Toulouse)
4 Pascal Pape (Stade Français)
3 David Attoub (Stade Français)
2 Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Français)
1 Vincent Debaty (Clermont)

16 Christopher Tolofua (Toulouse)
17 Thomas Domingo (Clermont)
18 Christopher Samson (Toulon)
19 Wenceslas Lauret (Biarritz)
20 Morgan Parra (Clermont)
21 Francois Trinh Duc (Montpellier)
22 Wesley Fofana (Clermont)

* Teams listed from the 2011-2012 season.
Argentina vs France, Córdoba, 2012

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