France happy to sacrifice flair in ensuring victory over Pumas

LOCK Fabien Pelous has vowed France will sacrifice flair in order to win by any means possible in Friday’s World Cup opener against Argentina.

The French have lost four of their last five matches against the Pumas and struggled to beat them 27-26 in their most recent encounter last November in Paris.

“If we beat them by the same margin this time, that’ll suit me,” Pelous said sterday.

“The quality of the game we will play is not what I’m worried about.

“Only the result counts.”

France have named five forwards on the bench to help counter the formidable Argentina pack and Pelous expects a tough battle against some of the toughest scrummagers in the game. They are excellent at the art of making others play badly,” Pelous said. “Nobody plays well against them. They put you under pressure and they’re always standing in front of you. If we manage to get the balls out of the rucks, we’ll be okay. If we don’t, we’ll be in trouble”.

Pelous, 33, who will play in his third World Cup, has recovered from a career-threatening ankle injury that kept him sidelined for five months.

He has lost the captain’s role to hooker Raphael Ibanez but not his place in the starting lineup.

“There were times when I feared I would never play rugby again,” he admitted.

“The fact that I’m again able to play the game I love at the highest level, that’s the most important thing to me.”

Pelous said home advantage did not mean that twice World Cup finalists France should be regarded as favourites.

“The only favourites are New Zealand,” he said. “The rest are outsiders and that includes us, Australia, Argentina or even England. If any of those teams manage to beat the All Blacks, it will be a surprise.”

Meanwhile Argentina coach Marcelo Loffreda will not reveal the identity of his flyhalf for the game against the hosts until later today. The Pumas coach will choose between brilliant place kicker Federico Todeschini, no longer an injury concern after a worrying few days, the tough-tackling Felipe Contepomi or Juan Martin Hernandez, who normally plays at fullback.

“We don’t know any more than you do and we’re just as anxious to know what the team will be,” lock Rimas Alvarez said yesterday.

Todeschini, the main points scorer in Argentina’s victory over England at Twickenham last November, has a near 100% success rate with the boot.

Loffreda may, though, want the greater creativity of Hernandez, who prefers to play at flyhalf where he ended last season for Stade Francais in partnership with Pumas captain Agustin Pichot.

Contepomi, the best defender of the trio and also versatile in attack, will play at inside centre if he is not picked at flyhalf.

Alvarez, in his second World Cup, is likely to start among the replacements with Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Patricio Albacete the preferred locks.

He said that, like most matches between Argentina and the French in recent years, he expects the Pool D encounter to be a close affair.

“I think it’s going to be a close match in the score and surely in the play as well,” said Alvarez.

“It will be a game of forwards. In the majority of these matches, the result was settled in the final minutes and by only a few points.

“In the difficult moments the team give their best,” Alvarez said. “Everyone has France as favourites, the stadium will be full of French. Maybe the pressure will work against them.”

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