Rugby World Cup 2019: France v Argentina

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Damian Penaud rallied his France team-mates to prove their critics wrong ahead of an intriguing Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina.

Saturday's Pool C showdown in Tokyo is a re-run of the first game of the 2007 World Cup, where the Pumas stunned their hosts with a 17-12 victory.

A repeat would likely be met with a collective shrug rather than a howl of outrage from a French public used to the frustrating inconsistencies of a national side that has only finished above fourth in the Six Nations once since 2011.

"I think that today nobody believes in us and so we'll try to prove everybody wrong," Clermont Auvergne wing Penaud told reporters.

"We're now going to say between us we'll do the job together with a cool head and ignore the rest."

France head coach Jacques Brunel has selected Toulouse duo Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont in the half-back positions.

Gregory Alldritt got the nod at number eight ahead of Louis Picamoles for the first game in what is set to be a fiercely contested pool, given England, Tonga and the United States complete the five.

Ntamack's opposite number at 10 is a familiar face in the form of Stade Francais' Nicolas Sanchez – one of only three players in the Argentina squad to ply his club trade outside of his homeland.

Coach Mario Ledesma chose to lean heavily upon home-based talents, although Saracens' Juan Figallo starts at prop and Castres' Benjamin Urdapilleta is on the bench.

Back-rower Juan Manuel Leguizamon – a veteran of three World Cup campaigns – will have to wait to draw level with Felipe Contepomi's 87-cap record for the Pumas after missing out on Ledesma's 23.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

France – Romain Ntamack

Ntamack only made his full international debut in February and the fly-half will follow in the footsteps of his father Emile, who represented Les Bleus in the 1995 and 1999 World Cups. They will become the first father and son duo to represent France in the tournament.

Argentina – Emiliano Boffelli

Starting at full-back but also a capable performer on the wing, Boffelli's long-range prowess from the tee could certainly come in handy if a tight battle ensues.

Key Opta facts
- France have won their other seven World Cup openers aside from that blemish against Argentina in 2007.
- Argentina won the most lineouts (41), turnovers (24) and made the most offloads (35) of any team in The Rugby Championship 2019.
- Jeronimo De La Fuente of Argentina made the most tackles (34) of any back in the Rugby Championship 2019. His tally was the fourth-most of any player overall.
- France's Yoann Huget averaged the most metres per carry (10.3) of any player to make more than 20 carries in the 2019 Six Nations. Only England’s Jonny May (six) scored more tries than Huget’s four across the campaign.