France v Argentina, November 17
Lille braced for epic battle
November 16, 2012
Louis Picamoles shone against Australia last weekend © PA Photos
Both France and Argentina will go into Saturday's clash in Lille full of confidence after their impressive showings last weekend.
Les Bleus put in a memorable performance against Australia last Saturday in front of their Stade de France crowd and came out of the match 33-6 victors. The result piled the pressure on under-fire coach Robbie Deans while it was probably France's best performance under coach Philippe Saint-Andre. France scored three tries on the night with Louis Picamoles, Wesley Fofana and a penalty try helping to bring up their 33-point total while Frederic Michalak pulled the strings majestically from fly-half.
The result propelled them into fourth in the IRB rankings and if both England and France win then Australia could drop out of the top four. Argentina's impressive 26-12 triumph over Wales moved them into seventh but a big win on Saturday could see the Pumas move up to fifth.
Santiago Phelan's Los Pumas powered past Six Nations Grand Slam holders Wales last weekend with Juan Imhoff and Gonzalo Camacho going over. Despite finishing the Rugby Chmapionship without a win to their name, they emerged from the competition with their reputation intact and they appear to still be riding the crest of the wave going into the November Tests.
France - Player to Watch: Vincent Clerc has only scored one try in the last seven Tests for France and is well overdue a score or two. On his day there are few better finishers than the Toulouse man so the Pumas need to keep a close eye on him.
France - Team News: France boss Saint-Andre has made one change to the side with second-row Yoann Maestri, who missed last weekend's rout of Australia due to a back injury, coming back into the side in place of Jocelino Suta.
Argentina - Player to Watch: Juan Imhoff was sensational against Wales last weekend. He will be coming up against a couple of his Montpellier team-mates on Saturday and he will want to silence the Lille crowd.
Argentina - Team News: Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino slots into the team at fullback as Juan Martin Hernandez injured himself on Saturday. And Bath flyer Horacio Agulla, who was benched for Saturday's match, has done enough to force his way back into the XV and replaces Exeter winger Gonzalo Camacho. The other change sees Marcelo Bosch starting at inside centre with Felipe Contepomi, who was forced off in the early stages of Saturday's match, out injured.
Juan Imhoff crashes over against Wales © PA Photos
Key Battle: The battle for back-row supremacy should be epic. France No.8 Louis Picamoles is setting the northern hemisphere rugby scene alight with his barnstorming runs while Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe is playing some sensational rugby in Argentina's back-row.
Trivia: Saturday sees the first Test match played at Grand Stade Lille Métropole. The 50,000 capacity stadium, which opened its doors officially for the first time in August 2012, is the home of LOSC Lille football club.
Stats: Twenty-two of the 30 players starting in Saturday's clash between France and Argentina ply their trade with French Top 14 clubs.
"They gave the Welsh a rugby lesson in the second half. They scored two textbook tries" - France boss Philippe Saint-Andre on the threat of Argentina
"We had a special agreement with the French clubs not to select more than two players from a club for the first match. A lot of our players play in France and England, and we have a good working relationship with these countries." - Pumas coach Santiago Phelan explains the reasons behind a few of his selections
Prediction: It will be an immensely close match and could be decided on the flip of a coin. But we're going for France by two.
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