Thursday, November 15, 2012

France v Argentina, Preview

Photo: UAR Credit to Martin Seras Lima Agulla and Imhoff to start v France
A vital match for France in particular will take place on Saturday in Lille. It will count towards IRB World Rankings and France needs to win or it will drop from Fourth to Fifth in the IRB World Rankings which would mean it would drop from Band A to Band B and consequently likely recieve   a more complicated draw for Rugby World Cup 2015. Argentina also went up in the rankings after defeating Wales but it needs to win big against France and Ireland if it is to have any chance of making the Top Four. Currently France are ahead of England who host Australia also on Saturday and are expected to win. As such France cannot afford to drop this match against Argentina. The match is also highly significant for other reasons. The rivalry between France and Argentina is legendary in the professional era and in many cases it is mate against mate as the bulk of the Pumas players are based in France or were previously in their careers.

There are players from both teams who are out of action due to injury. Les Bleus captain Thierry Dusautoir is and fellow backrower Wenceslas Lauret are both missing for the home side while  Patricio Albacete, Felipe Contepomi and Juan Martín Hernández are injured for Los Pumas. The three are big name Pumas players. All were Bronze Medal winners in 2007 and all carry massive reputations with them in France. The development of players through the PladAR system has enabled Argentina to produce previously unheard of depth. In general there are more players of note across positions than there were five years ago. For instance, although two of the three started against Wales none of them featured in the period in which Argentina took the lead and scored its tries.

Of the starting XV all except Martín Landajo have played in the Top 14 and the backs are significantly superior now than when Santiago Phelan took over as Argentina´s Headcoach. The game plan has evolved alongside the quality of backs. While Marcelo Loffreda had a team featuring only Ignacio Corleto as a threatening player in the back-three today Argentina has two of the leading finishers in France - Juan Imhoff and Lucas González Amorosino. They will be joined by Leicester Tigers player of the Year, Horacio Agulla in the back-three. Agulla did not start against Wales but had a positive impact from the bench as he played in the centres and was an was a highly effective ballcarrier and defender. González Amorosino replaces Hernández while the third and final change sees Marcelo Bosch join Gonzalo Tiesi in the centres, replacing Contepomi. France, in contrast has only made one change with Albacete´s club temmate, Yoann Maestri starting ahead of Jocelino Suta who faced Australia last week.

Overall France has a much superior win-loss ratio. France has won 33 matches and lost 12 while one match was drawn. A turning point occured following Rugby World Cup 1999 in that since then Argentina has won 8 of the 12 matches between the nations, including four in a row from 2002-2004 when Agustín Pichot was pleeding for recognition and a place in the Tri Nations or Six Nations. Of the 12 matches since the turn of the millenium 6 have been in Argentina and 6 in France with Argentina winning half of these matches. 

The teams have met once previously at Lille, in 1988. On that occassion Les Bleus win 28-18 to make it three wins from four matches that year against Argentina. Los Pumas had won the second 18-6 in Buenos Aires. Overall Argentina has been a team to play in a diverse selection of French cities. As earley as 1975 Argentina was playing against France outsie of Paris. There have been tests between the two in Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Nantes, Tarbes and Toulouse. The teams met twice in Paris during Rugby World Cup 2007 with Argentina winning both matches. Since then the FFR has hosted Los Pumas one two occassions - 2008 in Marseille and 2010 in Montpellier.

Complete History 
August 28 1949 Argentina  0-5 France, Buenos Aires
September 04 1949 Argentina 3-12 Argentina, Buenos Aires
August 29 1954 Argentina 8-22 France, Buenos Aires
September 12 1954 Argentina 3-30 France, Buenos Aires
July 23 1960 Argentina 3-37 France, Buenos Aires
August 06 1960 Argentina 3-12 France, Buenos Aires
August 17 1960 Argentina 6-29 France, Buenos Aires
June 20 1974 Argentina 25-20 France, Buenos Aires
June 29 1974 Argentina 27-31 France, Buenos Aires
October 19 1975 France 29-6 Argentina, Lyon
October 25 1975 France 36-21 Argentina, Paris
June 25 1977 Argentina 3-26 France, Buenos Aires
July 02 1977 Argentina 18-18 France, Buenos Aires
November 14 1982 France 25-12 Argentina, Toulouse
November 20 1982 France 13-6 Argentina, Paris
June 22 1985 Argentina 24-16 France, Buenos Aires
June 29 1985 Argentina 15-23 France, Buenos Aires
May 31 1986 Argentina 15-13 France, Buenos Aires
June 07 1986 Argentina 9-22 France, Buenos Aires
June 18 1988 Argentina 15-18 France, Buenos Aires
June 25 1988 Argentina 18-6 France, Buenos Aires
November 05 1988 France 29-9 Argentina, Nantes
November 11 1988 France 28-18 Argentina, Lille
July 04 1992 Argentina 12-27 France, Buenos Aires
July 11 1992 Argentina 9-33 France, Buenos Aires
November 14 1992 France 20-24 Argentina, Nantes
October 21 1995 Argentina 12-47 France, Buenos Aires
June 22 1996 Argentina 27-34 France, Buenos Aires
June 29 1996 Argentina 15-34 France, Buenos Aires
October 26 1997 France 32-27 Argentina, Tarbes
June 13 1998 Argentina 18-35 France, Buenos Aires
June 20 1988 Argentina 12-37 France Buenos Aires
November 14 1998 France 34-14 Argentina, Nantes
October 24 1999 France 47-26 Argentina, Dublin (RWC Quarter Final)
June 15 2002 Argentina 28-27 France, Buenos Aires
June 14 2003 Argentina 10-6 France, Buenos Aires
June 20 2003 Argentina 33-32 France, Buenos Aires
November 20 2004 France 14-24 Argentina, Marseille
November 25 2006 France 27-26 Argentina, Paris
September 07 2007 France 12-17 Argentina, Paris (RWC Pool Match)
October 19 2007 France 10-34 Argentina (RWC Bronze Final)
November 08 2008 France 12-6 Argentina, Marseille
June 26 2010 Argentina 41-13 France, Buenos Aires
November 20 2010 France 15-9 Argentina, Montpellier
June 16 2012 Argentina 23-20 France, Córdoba
June 23 2012 Argentina 10-49 France, Tucumán

Key Match-up
The frontrow battle will be interesting as it always is between these nations. France has Yannick Forestier of Castres debuting at loosehead prop. He will face Juan Figallo in an interesting battle. The other side of the scrum will be more interesting however with a leading props from the Top 14 and Aviva Premiership facing off. Four hard tacking will battle it out in the secondrow with Yoann Maestri and Manuel Carizza being the two to pay closest attention to. Fulgence Ouedraogo v Juan Manuel Leguizamón is a key backrow match-up but the forwards should, overall be quite evenly matches. As such it is the backs which may hold the key to victory. Moreover, the ability to create try scoring opportunities and to finish them off. Both Frederic Michalak and Nicolás Sánchez put in strong performances last weekend as did experienced centres - Florian Fritz and Gonzalo Tiesi. Both are great defenders and whoever is better on attack will make a major contribution. Two veteran´s are also facing off on one wing with Vincent Clerc v Horacio Agulla certain to be interesting. The other wing, however could be the biggest match-up with two of the best players from all of 2012 in France facing off. Wesley Fofana v Juan Imhoff is a contest between two great try scorers. At least one of these men should score this weekend. 

On paper France would appear to be a more complete side. The form of a number of players has been quite extraordinary in this seasons Top 14. Wesley Fofana, Yoann Maestri, Maxime Machenaud, Frederic Michalak and Louis Picamoles have been able to perform throughout the season at a very high level. Argentina´s players have only recently returned tot he Top 14 and elsewhere due to the teams involvement in The Rugby Championship. The success of Argentina´s involvement is hard to measure in terms of results against the SANZAR teams but it could be clearly seen last Saturday as Argentina played its best game of rugby in Europe since 2007. The form of Pumas players was strong and as a team the understanding the players have of how to work together was highly visible. The time together has meant Argentina has a team now that is very well prepared and this is highly dangerous to  European teams whose players have been playing for their clubs and not nations from August-October. Despite playing in France and despite France´s win over Australia this is a match in which the visitors should win. The unvaluable time together and the virtual universal understanding of the French language will give the South Americans an edge. Argentina to win by 6 points.  

Yannick Forestier, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 3 Nicolas Mas
(Castres, FRA), (Racing Métro, FRA) (Perpignan, FRA)
Pascal Papé, 5 Yoann Maestri
(Stade Français, FRA), (Toulouse, FRA)
Yannick Nyanga, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo

(Toulouse, FRA), (Toulouse, FRA), (Montpellier, FRA)

Maxime Machenaud, 10 Frederic Michalak
(Racing Métro, FRA), (Toulon, FRA)
12 Maxime Mermoz, 13 Florian Fritz
(Toulon, FRA), (Toulouse, FRA)
11 Vincent Clerc, 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Wesley Fofana
(Toulouse, FRA), (Agen, FRA), (Clermont, FRA)

16 Benjamin Kayser (Clermont, FRA)
17 Thomas Domingo (Clermont, FRA)
18 Vincent Debaty (Clermont, FRA)
19 Jocelino Suta (Toulon, FRA)
20 Damien Chouly (Clermont, FRA)
21 Morgan Parra (Clermont, FRA)
22 François Trinh-Duc (Montpellier, FRA)
23 Yoann Huget (Toulouse, FRA)

Marcos Ayerza, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 3 Juan Figallo
(Leicester Tigers, ENG), (Southern Kings, RSA) (Montpellier, FRA)
Manuel Carizza, 5 Julio Farías Cabello
(Racing Métro, FRA), (Los Pampas XV, ARG)

Juan M F Lobbe, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Juan M Leguizamón

(Toulon, FRA), (Los Pampas XV, ARG), (Lyon OU, FRA)

Martín Landajo, 10 Nicolás Sánchez
(Los Pampas XV, ARG), (Bordeaux-Begles, FRA)
12 Marcelo Bosch, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi
(Biarritz, FRA), (SIC, ARG)
11 Juan Imhoff, 15 Lucas G Amorosino, 14 Horacio Agulla
(Racing Métro, FRA), (Montpellier, FRA), (Bath, ENG)

16 Agustín Creevy (Montpellier, FRA)
17 Nahuel Lobo (Montpellier, FRA)
18 Francisco Gómez Kodela (Biarritz, FRA)
19 Tomás Vallejos Cinalli (Scarlets, WAL)
20 Tomás De La Vega (Los Pampas XV, ARG)
21 Tomás Cubelli (Los Pampas XV, ARG)
22 Gonzalo Camacho (Exeter Chiefs, ENG)
23 Joaquín Tuculet (Grenoble, FRA)

Argentina v France 2010, Buenos Aires

France v Argentina 2010, Montpellier

Argentina v France 2012, Córdoba

Argentina v France 2012, Tucumán

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