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France aim to improve defence against Argentina

Friday, 24 June 2016

France coach Guy Noves has made seven changes to the line-up for the second Test against Argentina including lock Yoann Maestri (L) as the new captain
France coach Guy Noves has made seven changes to the line-up for the second Test against Argentina including lock Yoann Maestri (L) as the new captain

Improving defensive systems has been a priority for France coach Guy Noves as he plots a victory over Argentina in Tucuman Saturday that would level the two-Test series.

An understrength Les Bleus team conceded three tries last weekend in a 30-19 defeat at the same venue — the sixth loss in seven Tests against Los Pumas in Argentina.

“Many weaknesses in our defensive system were exposed during the closing stages,” admitted Noves ahead of the rematch at the Estadio Monumental Jose Fierro.

“We were pierced too easily — on three times occasions in particular,” said the coach who guided Toulouse to four European and 10 French titles.

“I was saddened by the fact that on the few occasions when Argentina troubled us, they put us in danger of conceding points.

“We have watched replays of the match, noted our errors and I hope they will not be repeated this weekend.”

There were also positives for Noves from the first encounter in which France started with seven new caps, five of whom have been retained in the starting line-up for Saturday.

“I was not unhappy with the general performance,” said the 62-year-old who succeeded Philippe Saint-Andre after France were humiliated by New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals.

“We showed a lot of quality with ball in hand. So, on the one hand we were happy and on the other we had regrets.

“It was disappointing to lose, though, having led with 20 minutes left. We then conceded a couple of penalties that were converted and allowed a lock to score a try from far out.”

Lacking many French stars because the tour clashed with the closing stages of the French Top 14 competition, Noves chose an experimental squad and promised to give every player a chance.

He has kept his promise, making seven changes to the line-up that started last Sunday and choosing a new skipper.

Lock Yoann Maestri is the new captain, succeeding fly-half Jules Plisson, who kicked 14 points last weekend and is now among the replacements.

Maestri takes over from William Demotte and other changes to the pack see tighthead prop Uini Antonio and flanker Louis Picamoles come in for Rabah Slimani and Raphael Lakafia.

Wingers Xavier Mignot and Djibril Camara and scrum-half Baptiste Serin retain their places among the backs.

In come full-back Maxime Medard, centres Gael Fickou and Remi Lamerat and fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc and out go Hugo Bonneval, Julien Rey, Jonathan Danty and Blisson.

Argentina, fourth at the 2015 World Cup in England behind New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, are seeking a hat-trick of mid-year Test victories.

Before the win over France, they spoilt the debut of Italy coach and former Ireland full-back Conor O’Shea with a 30-24 victory in Santa Fe.

Fly-half Nicolas Sanchez has been a major contributor to both successes, kicking 20 points against the Azzurri and 15 against Les Bleus.

Coach Daniel Hourcade has made three changes to the starting side, one enforced, for the rematch against the French.

An injury has sidelined 60-cap centre Juan Martin Hernandez, an Argentine rugby legend, and Jeronimo de la Fuente takes over at inside centre.

Scrum-half Tomas Cubelli makes a rare start ahead of the consistently impressive Martin Landajo in the other backline alteration.

Lock Tomas Lavanini, who has completed a ban for shoulder charging and injuring a Super Rugby opponent in South Africa, has been recalled.

To accommodate him, Hourcade has made a number of positional switches with Javier Ortega going to No. 8 and Facundo Isa to loose forward while Tomas Lezana drops to the bench.

Source by: AFP

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