TOKYO (Reuters) - Argentina coach Mario Ledesma has named his strongest possible team for Saturday’s World Cup Pool C opener against France, when the Pumas will be looking to snap a nine-match losing streak.
Nicolas Sanchez will renew the acquaintance with many of his French Top 14 rivals having been given the nod at flyhalf for the twice World Cup semi-finalists ahead of Benjamin Urdapilleta, who will start on the bench.
The Stade Francais playmaker will be playing in his third World Cup and finished top scorer in the tournament four years ago when the Pumas reached the World Cup semi-finals for the second time.
“Our aim is to show a new face,” the 30-year-old told the tournament website.
“We are convinced Los Pumas will not only show their passion during this World Cup, but all the hard work that was put into the team, all the sacrifices we made.”
Former captain Agustin Creevy, who often rotates the start with Julian Montoya, was named at hooker in a pack led by current skipper Pablo Matera that will need a big game to give their outside backs the chance to shine.
Matias Orlando was named at outside centre with the same intention and Ledesma has gone for the experienced Matias Moroni on the right wing with talented young flyer Santiago Carreras covering the back three from the bench.
“I think that the best way to deal with France is to do our own things well, to fulfil our plans for the week,” Orlando said on Wednesday.
“We know that they have a pack of forwards that like to dominate and that is where we have to be stronger. Defence is going to be very important as well, of course.”
Argentina’s losing streak includes a 28-13 loss to France in Lille last November but also two defeats each to southern hemisphere powers New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
With in-form England also in Pool C, Saturday’s match at Tokyo Stadium could go a long way to deciding which of the two teams go through to the quarter-finals along with the 2003 World Cup winners.
Team: 15-Emiliano Boffelli, 14-Matias Moroni, 13-Matias Orlando, 12-Jeronimo De la Fuente, 11-Ramiro Moyano, 10-Nicolas Sanchez, 9-Tomas Cubelli, 8-Javier Ortega Desio, 7-Marcos Kremer, 6-Pablo Matera (captain), 5-Tomas Lavanini, 4-Guido Petti, 3-Juan Figallo, 2-Agustin Creevy, 1-Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16-Julian Montoya, 17-Mayco Vivas, 18-Santiago Medrano, 19-Matias Alemanno, 20-Tomas Lezana, 21-Felipe Ezcurra, 22-Benjamin Urdapilleta, 23-Santiago Carreras.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Darren Schuettler / Ian Ransom / Toby Davis