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Aerial battle key to France clash, says Pumas' Sanchez

Argentina's fly-half says the aerial battle will be a key factor in their crunch Pool C encounter with France, hoping that his experience in French rugby will give him an edge.

FILE: Argentina's Nicolas Sanchez runs with the ball during the Rugby Championship match between Australia and Argentina on the Gold Coast on 15 September 2018. Picture: AFP

NARAHA - Argentina's fly-half says the aerial battle will be a key factor in their crunch Pool C encounter with France, hoping that his experience in French rugby will give him an edge.

Nicolas Sanchez was the top scorer at the 2015 World Cup in England, his 97 points putting him ahead of the likes of All Black Dan Carter and the Wallabies' Bernard Foley.

And the Stade Francais playmaker, who had also enjoyed spells at Bordeaux-Begles and Toulon, said his knowledge of the opposition will be invaluable as Los Pumas seek to get out of a 'group of death' that also contains England.

"My experience last season was useful because it allowed me to get to know the players in the French team. I know their qualities and I can sort of predict how the match will go," he told AFP at the team camp in Naraha, near Fukushima in eastern Japan.

"We have to put them under pressure. I also think the kicking and aerial game will play an essential part. A lot will go through there," said the 30-year-old with 77 Puma caps.

Heavy rain is currently forecast to pass through Tokyo on the first weekend of the competition, leading some teams to train with slippery balls.

Argentina bombarded France with high balls during their past two World Cup matches, beating Les Bleus twice in 2007 - once in the pool phase and then winning the third-place play-off.

'100% focused'

Sanchez said that while Argentina are "100%" focused on the clash with France, "we also know we have a very high-level match (against England on 5 October) where we will also have to be at 100%".

And he said he was relishing competition for the number 10 shirt from Benjamin Urdapilleta, also plying his trade in France for Top 14 outfit Castres.

"It's great to have this competition. I am very happy to share this World Cup with him. He has shown the level he can perform at. It's good for the Pumas to have him and for me too," said Sanchez.

Coach Mario Ledesma is set to give Sanchez the nod at fly-half, according to several sources inside the camp.

The team, which will be announced on Wednesday or Thursday, could feature as many as 13 players from the Jaguares team that reached the final of this year's Super Rugby competition.

The Pumas have been training since Saturday at the J-Village, a sports complex in Japan's Fukushima that was once a staging ground for battling the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The complex will next year host Olympic teams and the torch relay as Japanese authorities hope to send a signal that the area is recovering from the terrible events eight years ago.

They are due to arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday, three days ahead of the crunch match with France that will play a huge part in determining the quarter-final line-up.

French full-back Maxime Medard has said the game is "an all or nothing match" if either side hopes to reach the knock-out phase.

Los Pumas are hoping to finally go further than the semi-finals that they reached in 2007 and 2015.

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