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Can Argentina replicate 2007 World Cup upset to topple France again?

It’s been 12 years since Argentina turned the rugby world on its head to upset France 17-12 in their own backyard in the 2007 World Cup opener.

Heavily tipped to bag a victory in the opening match of their own World Cup, Les Bleus were trounced by the Pumas in a riveting display to dish the hosts their first-ever defeat in the pool stages.

It was a victory which catapulted Argentina’s status within World Rugby to that of a tier one side, as they went on to make a maiden semi-final appearance and beat France again to finish the tournament in third place.

The landmark result was the catalyst for Argentina’s ascent to the upper echelons of test rugby, and a second semi-final outing four years ago further enhanced their standing within the global game.

Now, the Pumas have a chance to replicate that success on Saturday as they again meet France in their opening pool game of the 2019 World Cup in Tokyo.

A quick look through the odds placed on this match by various betting agencies suggests that France are favourites to claim victory this time round, as was the case in 2007, although by a significantly lesser margin.

Another look through the form book validates why Les Bleus are considered favourites, as a string of strong warm-up results – two big wins and a tight loss – has put Jacques Brunel’s side in good stead for Pool C, which is being dubbed as the ‘Pool of Death’.

Following Argentina, they will take on England, Tonga and the USA, and with only two quarter-final spots up for grabs, one of the three tier one sides in the group is going to miss out.

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That means the ramifications of this encounter will be massive, and so while they were upset at the Stade de France after being brandished as favourites 12 years ago, going into this clash with the perceived upper hand should be comforting for the French.

By comparison, Argentina haven’t won a test in over a year, with their last success on the international stage coming against the Wallabies on the Gold Coast on September 15 last year.

In fact, Mario Ledesma’s squad have claimed just seven scalps from 40 outings in the test arena since the last World Cup.

That alone makes them an outside chance to qualify out of Pool C ahead of England and France, but, as reflected by the team they have named for tomorrow’s match, they have anticipated the threat that Les Bleus pose on their knockout stage hopes.

13 of Argentina’s starting XV play for the Jaguares, who finished runners-up in this year’s Super Rugby.

The only two who don’t play for the franchise are flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez of Stade Francais and Montpellier prop Juan Figallo.

It means the forward pack consists of a variety of burly forwards, including star men Agustin Creevy, Guido Petti and Pablo Matera, while out wide, the back three trio of Ramiro Moyano, Matias Moroni and Emiliano Boffelli will be a handful for their opposites.

As for France, skipper Guilhem Guirado returns to the starting XV after being benched for his side’s 47-19 thrashing of Italy three weeks ago.

He’s accompanied by a raft of new names, but the additions of a new-look midfield consisting of Virimi Vakatawa and Gael Fickou, playing alongside each other in the No. 12 and No. 13 jerseys for the first time, is one of particular interest.

Both players are threatening in contrasting ways, but having that element of balance in the midfield should work well, especially when coming up against the defensively astute Jeronimo de la Fuente and Matias Orlando.

Veteran No. 8 Louis Picamoles will bring valuable experience from the bench, and the presence of Maxime Medard at fullback will help offset the inexperience on offer in the middle of the park.

All in all, Brunel has put together a formidable side capable of asking tough questions of whoever they come up against, and Argentina is no exception.

However, if the Pumas need any extra motivation to pull off what would be a minor upset in their vital first-up World Cup clash, the exploits of the playing group from 2007 shouldn’t too far from the minds of the current crop of players when they take the field at Ajinomoto Stadium.

Recent Form:

France:

W 47-19 vs Italy at Stade de France, Paris (30/8)

L 14-17 vs Scotland at Murrayfield, Edinburgh (24/8)

W 32-3 vs Scotland at Stade de France, Paris (17/8)

W 25-14 vs Italy at Stadio Olimpico, Rome (16/3)

L 14-26 vs Ireland at Aviva Stadium, Dublin (10/3)

Argentina:

L 18-24 vs South Africa at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria (17/8)

L 13-46 vs South Africa at Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta (10/8)

L 10-16 vs Argentina at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane (27/7)

L 16-20 vs New Zealand at Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires (20/7)

L 9-14 vs Scotland at Murrayfield, Edinburgh (24/11/2018)

Last Five Head-To-Head Results:

France 28-13 Argentina at Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille (2018)

France 27-0 Argentina at Estadio Jose Ferrio, Tucuman (2016)

France 19-30 Argentina at Estadio Jose Ferrio, Tucuman (2016)

France 13-18 Argentina at Stade de France, Paris (2014)

France 39-22 Argentina at Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille (2012)

Playing Record:

France wins: 36

Argentina wins: 14

Draw(s): 1

France:

1. Jefferson Poirot, 2. Guilhem Guirado, 3. Rabah Slimani, 4. Arthur Iturria, 5. Sebastian Vahaamahina, 6. Wenceslas Lauret, 7. Charles Ollivon, 8. Gregory Alldritt, 9. Antoine Dupont, 10. Romain Ntamack, 11. Yoann Huget, 12. Virimi Vakatawa, 13. Gael Fickou, 14. Damian Penaud, 15. Maxime Medard.

Reserves: 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:

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, 9. Tomas Cubelli, 10. Nicolas Sanchez, 11. Ramiro Moyano, 12. Jeronimo de la Fuente, 13. Matias Orlando, 14. Matias Moroni, 15. Emiliano Boffelli.

Reserves: 16. Julian Montoya, 17. Mayco Vivas, 18. Santiago Medrano, 19. Matias Alemanno, 20. Tomas Lezana, 21. Felipe Ezcurra, 22. Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23. Santiago Carreras.

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Can Argentina replicate 2007 World Cup upset to topple France again?