Les Bleu aim to end Pumas ‘bogey’

IN-FORM France claim their three-match losing sequence against Argentina will have no bearing on the Test today between the two nations.

Les Bleu triumphed 27-14 over Australia at the Stade de France last weekend for their eighth successive win, but they have not beaten the South Americans for five years.

The last time a French team overcame the Pumas was during the 1999 World Cup quarter-finals in Dublin, where they advanced to the semis with a 47-26 win. Since then, they have tasted defeat three times, losing a one-off Test in 2002 before suffering back-to-back losses during the 2003 summer tour.

“I have never beaten them,” said Stade Francais prop Sylvain Marconnet. “But this time the context is different - we are not playing after a long domestic championship. As far as we are concerned, we will have to stop them, move them and make them run and get tired.”

Imanol Harinordoquy also refuses to believe Argentina have become Les Bleu’s bogey side and is confident of victory.

“They are smart and they will try to unsettle us, but things have changed,” Harinordoquy said. “During our two defeats in June 2003 we were less motivated than in November, because it was the end of the season and we were all tired. The defensive mistakes we made in Buenos Aires back then will not be reproduced tomorrow. Our defence is definitely more settled.”

The French players know the Argentinians very well, with most of them playing in the French top 16.

France coach Bernard Laporte does not have any major injury concerns ahead of the game although winger Christophe Dominici has been ruled out after pulling his thigh muscle on Wednesday.

He will be replaced by Biarritz’s Jimmy Marlu, top try-scorer in the French league with nine.

Marlu, who has three caps, has not played for Les Bleus since April 2002 against Ireland. Centre Tony Marsh has been rested all week because of a problem with his leg, but is expected to train on Friday and should be fit.

Meanwhile, Argentina coach Marcelo Loffreda, whose side face Ireland next Saturday and South Africa on December 4, will have to do without former captain Lisandro Arbizu, who is suffering from a thigh injury.

France: N Brusque, A Rougerie, T Marsh, Y Jauzion, C Heymans, F Michalak, Elissalde; I Harinordoquy, O Magne, S Betsen, J Thion, F Pelous (c), S Marconnet, W Servat, O Milloud. Argentina: J M Hernández, L Borges, F Aramburu, M Contepomi, H Senillosa, F Contepomi, A Pichot (c); G Longo, L Ostiglia, M Durand, R Álvarez, P Albacete, O Hasan, M Ledesma, R Roncero.

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