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Sanchez starts for Argentina against France in Rugby World Cup

Sanchez has a ream of French experience, having also played for Stade's Top 14 rivals Bordeaux-Begles and Toulon over four seasons before linking up briefly with the Jaguares in Super Rugby.

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

TOKYO - Argentina have turned to mercurial Stade Francais fly-half Nicolas Sanchez to pull the strings for Los Pumas' opening World Cup Pool C match against France on Saturday.

Sanchez has a ream of French experience, having also played for Stade's Top 14 rivals Bordeaux-Begles and Toulon over four seasons before linking up briefly with the Jaguares in Super Rugby.

Argentina will be skippered by marauding flanker Pablo Matera in a strong-looking pack that sees Saracens' Juan Figallo starting at tight-head prop.

The third player in Argentina's 31-man squad attached to a club outside the South American country is also included, as coach Pablo Ledesma named goal-kicking Castres playmaker Benjamin Urdapilleta on the bench.

The rest of the match-day team play for the Jaguares, who made it to the Super Rugby final in July, going down 19-3 to the Crusaders.

NTAMACK STARTS AT 10 AS FRANCE OPT FOR YOUTH AGAINST ARGENTINA

Toulouse young guns Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont will start at half-back as France plumped for youth for their opening Pool C match against Argentina on Saturday.

Head coach Jacques Brunel opted for goal-kicker Ntamack, 20, over Camille Lopez while 22-year-old Dupont starts at scrum half, the experienced Maxime Machenaud beating out Baptiste Serin for a place on the bench.

Lopez had started two of the three warm-up matches, but struggled with the boot, in contrast to Ntamack.

"He's started several times for us and we think that having Ntamack on for the first part of the game and Lopez the second is the most satisfactory selection," Brunel said.

Ntamack, son of emblematic ex-France winger/full-back Emile, more often than not lines up at inside centre for Toulouse, but Brunel dismissed any concern over handing him the keys to number 10.

"We have absolutely no doubt about his quality at fly-half," Brunel said of Ntamack, a key playmaker in leading the France side to glory in the World Rugby under-20 championship in 2018.

Ntamack will also take on the kicking duties, Brunel confirmed.

"He's shown that this role doesn't scare him," he said.

"He trains regularly at his club and has a convincing success rate."

Fiji-born Virimi Vakatawa slots into the centre alongside Gael Fickou, with Wesley Fofana out injured.

"Since his arrival in Japan, Virimi has been more than present and shown off his qualities in training and against opposition (versus Yamaha Jubilo on Friday), which led us to select him," Brunel said.

'NO QUESTIONS'

Damian Penaud and Yoann Huget start on the wings, with Maxime Medard beating out the benched Thomas Ramos for a run-on role at full-back.

Guilhem Guirado captains the side from hooker for the 31st time, keeping Camille Chat on the bench and for the moment silencing his doubters.

"I told him, I have no questions, he's confirmed as the team's captain," Brunel said of Guirado, who didn't start a single warm-up match.

Rabah Slimani and Jefferson Poirot complete the front row, with Sebastien Vahaamahina and the mobile Arthur Iturria named at lock.

Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon and Wenceslas Lauret make up a lively back row, with veteran No 8 Louis Picamoles and South African-born Bernard Le Roux among the replacements alongside prop options Demba Bamba and Cyril Baille.

When France hosted the 2007 World Cup, they lost their opener to Argentina, and Brunel insisted that his team "not give too much importance" to this opening game which he said "will not be decisive" for qualifying for the quarter-finals.

"The opening match is often decisive in setting the tone, but you must also not give it too much importance," Brunel said.

"We'll have three matches in 10 days," with France going on to play the United States on October 2, Tonga four days later and England on October 12.

"The ideal is to win this game, but we can think that the three other matches will count until the end.

"History has shown that you mustn't forget there are other matches," insisted Brunel, no doubt in reference to France's shock 19-14 defeat by Tonga in 2011, a result that didn't stop Les Bleus from reaching the final.

TEAMS:

Argentina (15-1)

Emiliano Boffelli; Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Ramiro Moyano; Nicolas Sanchez, Tomas Cubelli; Javier Ortega Desio, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera (capt); Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti; Juan Figallo, Agustin Creevy, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro

Replacements: Julian Montoya, Mayco Vivas, Santiago Medrano, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lezana, Felipe Ezcurra, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Santiago Carreras

France (15-1)

Maxime Medard; Damian Penaud, Gael Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa, Yoann Huget; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Gregory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Wenceslas Lauret; Sebastien Vahaamahina, Arthur Iturria; Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado (cap), Jefferson Poirot

Replacements: Camille Chat, Cyril Baille, Demba Bamba, Bernard Le Roux, Louis Picamoles, Maxime Machenaud, Camille Lopez, Thomas Ramos

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