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Preview: Argentina v France

22nd June 2012 14:35

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Felipe Contepomi Argentina v France 2012

Felipe Contepomi: Farewell Test?

Argentina will be eyeing a series whitewash against France in Tucumán on Saturday to give themselves an ideal boost going into the Rugby Championship.

The Pumas' debut outing in what has been their coveted competition for so long cannot come soon enough - it is just a shame they do not open up at home. As it is they will face South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town, with their first hosting being against the same opposition the following week in Mendoza.

Before June kicked off, one could get Argentina at pre-tournament odds of 66/1. That has been cut right after recent weeks? Wrong, they are now 100/1. That is a surprise as credit needs to be extended to the Pumas for how they have gone about their work in the last three years. Their arrival on the Vodacom Cup scene in 2010 quickly paid off as the following year the Pampas side lifted the silverware, which has ultimately added depth to the Pumas.

Consequently they are now able to pick a team that does not possess the household names of their Top 14 and Aviva Premiership stars and still mix it against international opponents - the Azzurri and les Bleus can vouch for that after both went down to defeats in Argentina over the past fortnight.

The latter result now leaves France without a success in Argentina since 1998 and lifts the Pumas to sixth in the World Rankings. France go to seventh position and now look highly unlikely to make the top four in the IRB list before the draw for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England is made in December.

In truth they should have won in Cordoba last week as a sloppy pass from Francois Trinh-Duc in the opening exchanges found wing Belisario Agulla, who strolled to the whitewash. And les Bleus ended the game how they started with more careless play, this time from Fulgence Ouedraogo, leading to Manuel Montero crossing for the match-winning try that helped the Pumas to an impressive eighth win in the last eleven games with Philippe Saint-André's men.

Saint-André was clearly fuming with his side for falling to the defeat as despite many saying this is a weakened French line-up, it still possessed a good deal of experience through the likes of Morgan Parra, Pascal Pape, Trinh-Duc and Dimitri Szarzewski, with the head coach upset in the aftermath. Saint-André's general message is for France to stop assuming they are superior to opposition - something they surely need to adopt against Argentina.

It remains to be seen if a backlash will come, as let's face it, who knows with France. And with the news that Felipe Contepomi is unlikely to play in the inaugural Rugby Championship later this year, expect Argentina's maestro and the partisan crowd not to go quietly into July at Estadio José Fierro.

Ones to watch:

For Argentina: Returning to the Pumas line-up this week will be Leonardo Senatore. The number eight was excellent against Italy a fortnight ago and is back from a week off to try and help Argentina make it nine wins in their twelve previous games with the French. The 28-year-old former Toulon medical joker could cement his place in the starting XV for their Rugby Championship opener against South Africa at Newlands with a strong performance.

For France: Five years after his last start for France, Frederic Michalak is handed the number ten jumper. Michalak announced his departure from the Sharks for Toulon with the intent of playing for his country at the 2015 World Cup, and this is his first chance to impress. The Test veteran was a livewire when coming off the bench last week but Saint-André will want his pivot to control the game better on Saturday rather than simply look for gaps.

Head-to-head: It's a rare occurrence but Argentina struggled at scrum-time in Cordoba. As a result the Pumas pack has been bulked up with Biarritz prop Francisco Gomez Kodela returning at tighthead. His battle with Clermont's Vincent Debaty should be interesting. Debaty has built a reputation as an impact player and might only last until half time before making way for Thomas Domingo.

Previous results:

2012: Argentina won 23-20 in Cordoba
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

Prediction:Last week's result had more to do with France making mistakes than Argentina earning their tries. Expect the tourists to bounce back. France by five points

The teams:

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Facundo Barrea, 13 Agustin Gosio, 12 Felipe Contepomi (c), 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Tomas Leonardi, 6 Tomas De la Vega, 5 Esteban Lozada, 4 Julio Farias Cabello, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Andres Bordoy, 1 Eusebio Guinazu.
Replacements: 16 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Santiago Guzman, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Rodrigo Baez, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Gabriel Ascarate.

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

Date: Saturday, June 23
Venue: Estadio José Fierro, Tucumán
Kick-off: 18.10 (21.10 GMT/22.10 BST)
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

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