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Ntamack and Dupont start as France opt for youth against Argentina

Stade Francais out-half Nicolas Sanchez starts for the Pumas in Tokyo.

Dupont starts at scrum-half for Les Bleus.
Dupont starts at scrum-half for Les Bleus.
Image: Christophe Ena

TOULOUSE YOUNG GUNS Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont will start at half-back as France plumped for youth for their opening World Cup Pool C match against Argentina on Saturday.

Head coach Jacques Brunel opted for goal-kicker Ntamack, 20, over Camille Lopez while 22-year-old Dupont starts at scrum-half, the experienced Maxime Machenaud beating out Baptiste Serin for a place on the bench.

Lopez had started two of the three warm-up matches, but struggled with the boot, in contrast to Ntamack.

“He’s started several times for us and we think that having Ntamack on for the first part of the game and Lopez the second is the most satisfactory selection,” Brunel said.

Ntamack, son of ex-France winger/fullback Emile, more often than not lines up at inside centre for Toulouse, but Brunel dismissed any concern over handing him the keys to number 10.

“We have absolutely no doubt about his quality at fly-half,” Brunel said of Ntamack, a key playmaker in leading the France side to glory in the World Rugby U20 championship in 2018.

Ntamack will also take on the kicking duties, Brunel confirmed.

“He’s shown that this role doesn’t scare him,” he said.

“He trains regularly at his club and has a convincing success rate.”

Fiji-born Virimi Vakatawa slots into the centre alongside Gael Fickou, with Wesley Fofana out injured.

“Since his arrival in Japan, Virimi has been more than present and shown off his qualities in training and against opposition (versus Yamaha Jubilo on Friday), which led us to select him,” Brunel said.

france-v-italy-test-match Jacques Brunel. Source: Blondet Eliot/ABACA

Damian Penaud and Yoann Huget start on the wings, with Maxime Medard beating out the benched Thomas Ramos for a run-on role at full-back.

Guilhem Guirado captains the side from hooker for the 31st time, keeping Camille Chat on the bench and for the moment silencing his doubters.

“I told him, I have no questions, he’s confirmed as the team’s captain,” Brunel said of Guirado, who didn’t start a single warm-up match.

Rabah Slimani and Jefferson Poirot complete the front row, with Sebastien Vahaamahina and the mobile Arthur Iturria named at lock.

Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon and Wenceslas Lauret make up a lively back row, with veteran number eight Louis Picamoles and South African-born Bernard Le Roux among the replacements alongside prop options Demba Bamba and Cyril Baille.

Meanwhile, Argentina have turned to mercurial Stade Francais out-half Nicolas Sanchez to pull the strings for Los Pumas’ opening Pool C match.

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Sanchez has a ream of French experience, having also played for Stade’s Top 14 rivals Bordeaux-Begles and Toulon over four seasons before linking up briefly with the Jaguares in Super Rugby.

Argentina will be skippered by marauding flanker Pablo Matera in a strong-looking pack that sees Saracens’ Juan Figallo starting at tighthead prop.

The third player in Argentina’s 31-man squad attached to a club outside the South American country is also included, as coach Mario Ledesma named goal-kicking Castres playmaker Benjamin Urdapilleta on the bench.

The rest of the match-day team play for the Jaguares, who made it to the Super Rugby final in July, going down 19-3 to the Crusaders.

France:

15. Maxime Medard
14. Damian Penaud
13. Gael Fickou
12. Virimi Vakatawa
11. Yoann Huget
10. Romain Ntamack
9. Antoine Dupont

8. Gregory Alldritt
7. Charles Ollivon
6. Wenceslas Lauret
5. Sebastien Vahaamahina
4. Arthur Iturria
3. Rabah Slimani
2. Guilhem Guirado (captain)
1. Jefferson Poirot.

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

8. Javier Ortega Desio
7. Marcos Kremer
6. Pablo Matera (captain)
5. Tomas Lavanini
4. Guido Petti
3. Juan Figallo
2. Agustin Creevy
1. Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.

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.

© – AFP 2019

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