Preview: France v Argentina

It was so close and yet so far for France last weekend against South Africa.

It was so close and yet so far for France last weekend against South Africa.

And this weekend, Les Bleus know that they have to put it right against Argentina.

Jacques Brunel’s side slipped to a fifth defeat in a row – they have not won since downing England during the 2018 Six Nations – in dramatic fashion against the Springboks.

They let a 14-point lead slip in the second half but impressed for large parts of the clash – and as a result have made minimal changes.

Gael Fickou comes in to the centres in place of Geoffrey Doumayrou while Yoann Huget comes onto the wing in place of Damian Penaud who is ruled out with an ankle problem.

The Pumas meanwhile will take some stopping, despite their narrow defeat to Ireland last time out in Dublin.

The two sides, who are also drawn together in the same Pool for the Rugby World Cup next year, last met in the summer of 2016 with a drawn two-Test series in South America.

But since then Mario Ledesma has taken over in charge of the Pumas who won two games in the Rugby Championship for the first time ever and should have had a third.

Their only change to the starting XV – despite three defeats in a row – sees Gonzalo Bertranou return at scrum-half while Tomas Cubelli drops to the bench.

That means Guido Petti remains at flanker for the Pumas as they look to claim the bragging rights over their rivals before the World Cup.   What they said   France scrum-half Baptiste Serin said: “We are angry, mostly with ourselves, but above all we are frustrated.

“The loss to South Africa gave us a headache but we have tried to bounce back quickly because we have to win this game. We need a victory and we cannot afford to focus on anyone but ourselves.

“When you come so close to a win like we did against the Springboks, it sends our motivation through the roof.”   Argentina head coach Mario Ledesma said: “If you win this meeting at this time of the year, it will give the boys confidence and doubt for the French,” Ledesma has been quoted as saying by France Info.

“Next year at the World Cup, we will be in the same conditions and the best will win.”   Key battle – Teddy Thomas v Bautista Delguy   Two of the most box-office wingers in world rugby face off on Saturday night in Lille.

Teddy Thomas was his typical livewire self against the Boks last time out, and only poor execution cost both himself and France a number of tries as he sliced through seemingly at will.

But Argentina have a sharp speedster of their own in Bautista Delguy, who has progressed from 7s to XV-a-side in style in a breakthrough year and now has five tries in the calendar year   Key stat

– Argentina have won two of the last three clashes between these teams, including the last one in Paris back in November 2014.

– Gael Fickou and Mathieu Bastareaud have started just one Test together before as a centre pairing, in the final game of the 2014 Six Nations against Ireland.

– Bautista Delguy has five tries from nine Tests in 2019.

– Argentina have beaten South Africa and Australia this year already, and should have downed the Wallabies a second time in the Rugby Championship but threw away a 31-7 half-time lead.

France: 15. Maxime Médard, 14. Teddy Thomas, 13. Mathieu Bastareaud, 12. Gaël Fickou, 11. Yoann Huget, 10. Camille Lopez, 9. Baptiste Serin, 1. Jefferson Poirot, 2. Guilhem Guirado (C), 3. Cedate Gomes Sa, 4. Sébastien Vahaamahina, 5. Yoann Maestri, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 7. Arthur Iturria, 8. Louis Picamoles Replacements: 16. Camille Chat, 17. Dany Priso, 18. Rabah Slimani, 19. Paul Gabrillagues, 20. Mathieu Babillot, 21. Antoine Dupont, 22. Anthony Belleau, 23. Benjamin Fall

Argentina: 15. Emiliano Boffelli, 14. Bautista Delguy, 13. Matias Orlando, 12. Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11. Ramiro Moyano, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 9. Gonzalo Bertranou, 1. Santiago Garcia Botta, 2. Augustin Creevy, 3. Santiago Medrano, 4. Matias Alemanno, 5. Tomas Lavanini, 6. Pablo Matera (c), 7. Guido Petti, 8. Javier Ortega Desio Replacements: 16. Julian Montoya, 17. Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18. Lucio Sordoni, 19. Mariano Galarza, 20. Rodrigo Bruni, 21. Tomas Lezana, 22. Tomas Cubelli, 23. Matias Moroni