France head coach Jacques Brunel has put his trust in youth and backed fly-half Romain Ntamack by naming him in his starting XV for the World Cup Pool C opener against Argentina.
Fly-half Ntamack is the 20-year-old son of former France international Emile and he will start alongside scrum-half Antoine Dupont, who is only two years his senior and chosen ahead of the experienced Maxime Machenaud.
Camille Lopez, another option at 10 for Les Bleus, starts on the bench, and Brunel believes a youthful start followed by an experienced hand to close out the game is his best strategy.
“He (Ntamack) has started for us several times and we think that having Romain at the beginning of the game and Camille Lopez in the second part is the most satisfactory solution for us,” Brunel told the official Rugby World Cup site.
“We have an experienced bench that will hopefully bring something to the second half of the game. Our thinking is that the game will probably be close and the second half decisive.”
Ntamack will make his first World Cup start 24 years after his father’s debut in South Africa.
“We have taken Romain Ntamack to be a fly-half and not a centre,” Brunel added. “He has played in this position several times.
“He was a fly-half for us before and showed he was able to play at a very good level in this position, even if he hasn’t played much there for his club recently. He has the qualities to make the most of it: technically, physically. I don’t have any concerns about that.”
In the back row, Gregory Alldritt is favoured over Louis Picamoles for the number eight jersey.
For Argentina, Agustin Creevy, Juan Figallo and Nicolas Sanchez will all appear in their third World Cup after being named in the starting XV by head coach Mario Ledesma.
Flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon, who is one cap adrift of Felipe Contepomi’s Pumas’ record of 87, is not in the matchday 23.
“In the first line the experience is acquired and it is an important factor against a good first line such as that of France. In the scrum the first line that worked best in training is the one that will play,” Ledesma told a press conference.
“It’s going to be a pressure game; the one who exerts more pressure and can get out of the pressure more comfortably will be the one who wins the weekend.”
This game is a repeat of the 2007 tournament opener where Argentina beat then host nation France on their way to the semi-finals.