Preview: Argentina v France

Date published: June 24 2016

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Argentina will look to continue where they left off last weekend when they host France in their second Test in Tucumán on Saturday.

Los Pumas got their 2016 international campaign off to a fine start when they claimed a 30-19 victory over les Bleus, in the first encounter of the two-Test series at the same venue, last weekend.

Although that result was achieved against an under strength France side, it consolidated Argentina's position in the World Rugby Rankings and they are still firmly placed in fifth place while France have dropped to ninth position, after their defeat, swapping places with Scotland who are now eighth.

Although almost 100 percent of Argentina's matchday squad consists of Jaguares players – Brumbies scrum-half Tomás Cubelli is the only player who doesn't ply his trade with his country's Super Rugby franchise – their performance in last weekend's Test was better than their Super Rugby showings.

Los Pumas head coach Daniel Hourcade has retained most of his players who did the job for him last weekend with the selection of Tomás Cubelli and Jerónimo de la Fuente, albeit as a replacement for the injured Juan Martín Hernández, an idication that they are set to play a more attacking game.

Up front, Tomás Lavanini returns from suspension to start in the second row with Javier Ortega Desio switching to the openside flank to accomodate Lavanini's inclusion. 

France head coach Guy Novès has made several changes to his matchday squad after last weekend's defeat and the inclusion of experienced players like Maxime Médard, François Trinh-Duc, Yoann Maestri and Louis Picamoles will boost their chances of drawinbg level in the series.

Just like les Bleus' Six Nations campaign, Trinh-Duc swaps roles with Jules Plisson in the pivot position. Trinh-Duc will be expected to bring out the best in his outside backs, something which Plisson failed to do last weekend.

Plisson's demotion to the bench also means that there's a change in captaincy for les Bleus with Maestri, who missed the first Test with a rib injury, taking over the leadership role.

Novès believes poor defence was the main reason for last weekend's defeat and is confident an improved showing in that department will help his team level the series. 

"Many weaknesses in our defensive system were exposed during the closing stages," he told AFP.

"We were pierced too easily – on three times occasions in particular.

"I was saddened by the fact that on the few occasions when Argentina troubled us, they put us in danger of conceding points.

"We have watched replays of the match, noted our errors and I hope they will not be repeated this weekend."

Players to Watch

For Argentina: Scrum-half Tomás Cubelli comes in to the run-on side and will be expected to keep France's defenders busy with his sniping breaks, especially around the fringes of the set-pieces as well as the rucks and mauls. Cubelli has impressed for the Brumbies with his attacking prowess and a replication of that form should provide headaches to les Bleus on defence.

For France: Keep an eye on Gaël Fickou who has the ability to change the course of a game with a moment of brilliance. The 22-year-old is highly-rated in France and possesses an impressive skill-set. If France's forwards manage to provide quality ball, he should be effective with ball in hand. 

Head-to-head: The second row battle between Argentina's Tomás Lavanini and France captain Yoann Maestri should be tough and uncomprising one as both players are very competitive. Lavanini will be keen to impress after missing Argentina's recent Tests against Italy and France due to suspension while Maestri is in a similar situation, after returning from injury and has the added responsibility of captaincy on his shoulders. Both players are good line-out exponents and will be expected to lead their respective team's challenges up front.

Prediction: France have a more experienced side this week and should run their hosts close but Argentina will edge it to clinch the series. Argentina to win by three points. 

Previous results:
2016:
Argentina won 30-19 in Tucumán
2014: Argentina won 18-13 in Saint-Denis
2012: France won 39-22 in Lille
2012: France won 49-10 in Tucumán
2012: Argentina won 23-20 in Córdoba
2010: France won 15-9 in Montpellier 
2010: Argentina won 41-13 in Buenos Aires
2008: France won 12-6 in Marseille 
2007: Argentina won 34-10 in Paris 
2007: Argentina won 17-10 in Paris 
2006: France won 27-26 in Paris
2004: Argentina won 24-14 in Marseilles 
2003: Argentina won 33-32 in Buenos Aires
2003: Argentina won 10-6 in Buenos Aires
2002: Argentina won 28-27 in Buenos Aires

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Tomás Lezana, 20 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 21 Martín Landajo, 22 Matías Orlando, 23 Lucas González Amorosino

France: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Xavier Mignot, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Loann Goujon, 5 Yoann Maestri (c), 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Rémi Bonfils, 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Lucas Pointud, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Kélian Galletier, 21 Sébastien Bézy, 22 Jules Plisson, 23 Julien Rey

Date: Saturday, June 25
Venue: Estadio Monumental José Fierro, Tucumán
Kick-off: 15:10 local (18:10 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Johnny Lacey (Ireland), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

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