TOKYO (Reuters) – Romain Ntamack will start at flyhalf for France in Saturday’s World Cup opener against Argentina, a potentially pivotal game in the tournament that could decide which team will be going home after the pool stages.
With a defeat against the Pumas likely to leave France needing to beat England to avoid missing out on the quarter-finals for the first time, coach Jacques Brunel chose playmaker Ntamack ahead of Clermont Auvergne’s Camille Lopez.
Ntamack, whose father Emile was part of the France side that reaches the World Cup final in 1999, will start alongside Toulouse team mate Antoine Dupont in a backline missing Wesley Fofana who failed to recover from injury in time.
Guilhem Guirado captains the side at hooker in a mobile pack where La Rochelle’s Gregory Alldritt is preferred to Louis Picamoles at number eight.
France: 15-Maxime Medard, 14-Damian Penaud, 13-Gael Fickou, 12-Virimi Vakatawa, 11-Yoann Huget, 10-Romain Ntamack, 9-Antoine Dupont, 8-Gregory Alldritt, 7-Charles Ollivon, 6-Wenceslas Lauret, 5-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4-Arthur Iturria, 3-Rabah Slimani, 2-Guilhem Guirado (capt), 1-Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16-Camille Chat, 17-Cyril Baille, 18-Demba Bamba, 19-Bernard Le Roux, 20-Louis Picamoles, 21-Maxime Machenaud, 22-Camille Lopez, 23-Thomas Ramos.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Ian Ransom)