On an opening weekend packed with huge fixtures, perhaps none will have a greater bearing on the quarter-final line-up than France’s clash with Argentina.
Twelve years on from Los Pumas’ stunning victory in the opening game of the 2007 World Cup in France, the teams meet once again on this stage.
Neither comes in overflowing with confidence, France having finishing fourth in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, and Argentina without a Test win in more than a year.
And still, all of that will be forgotten for whoever emerges victorious in Tokyo and puts themselves in great shape to reach the last eight.
In a Pool C that also features Tonga, USA and particularly England, this is a match where neither side can afford to slip up.
It pits together two contrasting teams, Argentina calling on 13 players from the Jaguares who reached the final of Super Rugby in their starting line-up, while France have a less settled side.
Jacques Brunel has made a couple of big calls, starting Romain Ntamack at fly-half as he did in the latter stages of the Championship, while Virimi Vakatawa makes his first Test start at centre in place of the injured Wesley Fofana.
Elsewhere Arthur Iturria shifts into the second row, as Charles Ollivon and Grégory Alldritt join the experienced Wenceslas Lauret in the back row.
France v Argentina, Tokyo Stadium, Chofu, Saturday 21 September, 8:15 GMT
What they said:
France head coach Jacques Brunel said: “We will try to apply our principles, put in place a strategy that might also be linked to the weather, because we are not sure what it will be.
“We know the qualities of the Argentinians, their progress, especially since we met them recently. We’ve prepared well, we’re going to give it all, try and put them in danger. But we might have to take into account the weather.”
Argentina prop Juan Figallo said: “It’s always going to be tough and no match is easy; all the less so in a Rugby World Cup. We have a chance to hit the ground running, so it’s a key encounter for us.
“French rugby has a great league from which to draw many players. The 31 that made it are a great team led by an excellent coach.”
Key battle – Guirado v Creevy
Two vastly experienced hookers go head-to-head on Saturday and find themselves in similar positions. While Agustin Creevy is no longer captain of Argentina – Pablo Matera has taken on that role – he remains the heartbeat of the side, while Guilhem Guirado has been a rock for France over the last four years and continues to lead the side. Both have young challengers snapping at their heels, but the experience of the pair ensured they got the starting role. With lineout options throughout the Argentina pack, Guirado will have to be at his most accurate in his throwing, while France will also be wary of the threat that Creevy poses at the breakdown. The game may be won or lost in the final half-hour when these two will have likely made their contributions. If one can definitively win this battle though, it may make all the difference.
Guinness Six Nations – Stats powered by AWS
- No team made more offloads than France during the 2019 Guinness Six Nations. They led the way with 62
- France welcome back Virimi Vakatawa, a fine offloader of the ball, making his first start since the 2018 Championship, and first-ever in the centres
- France had the slowest ruck time of any team in the 2019 Championship
- Vakatawa starts despite not being named in France’s initial 37-man squad. He was called up in August in place of Geoffrey Doumayrou and has now stepped in for the injured Fofana
- Romain Ntamack follows in the footsteps of father Emile in representing France at a Rugby World Cup
- Argentina coach Mario Ledesma started at hooker in the 2007 win over France. French assistant coaches Julien Bonnaire and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde came off the bench that day
France: 15. Maxime Medard, 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Gael Fickou, 12. Virimi Vakatawa, 11. Yoann Huget, 10. Romain Ntamack, 9. Antoine Dupont, 1. Jefferson Poirot, 2. Guilhem Guirado, 3. Rabah Slimani, 4. Arthur Iturria, 5. Sebastien Vahaamahina, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 7. Charles Ollivon, 8. Gregory Alldritt
Replacements: 16. Camille Chat, 17. Cyril Baille, 18. Demba Bamba, 19. Bernard le Roux, 20. Louis Picamoles, 21. Maxime Machenaud, 22. Camille Lopez, 23. Thomas Ramos
Argentina: 15. Emiliano Boffelli, 14. Matias Moroni, 13. Matias Orlando, 12. Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11. Ramiro Moyano, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Tomas Cubelli, 1. Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2. Agustin Creevy, 3. Juan Figallo, 4. Guido Petti, 5. Tomas Lavanini, 6. Pablo Matera, 7. Marcos Kremer, 8. Javier Ortega Desio
Replacements: 16. Julian Montoya, 17. Mayco Vivas, 18. Santiago Medrano, 19. Matias Alemanno, 20. Tomas Lezana, 21. Felipe Ezcurra, 22. Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23. Santiago Carreras