By Nick Said
(Reuters) – France prop Jefferson Poirot is expecting “war” when his side take on Argentina in their Rugby World Cup Pool C opener in Tokyo on Saturday in what looks a must-win match for both if they are to make it to the quarter-finals in Japan.
Poirot expects bravery and fight from an Argentine side that enter the tournament on a run of nine straight defeats, acknowledging that the South Americans have not been as mediocre as those results suggest.
Three of the defeats were by six points or less to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa this year.
“We know them, we can’t be surprised of the bravery they will demonstrate, of the war they will fight,” Poirot told reporters on Friday.
“We know it’s a team which plays very good rugby and which tries to break their opponent, we know all of that so it’s down to us to handle this. We’ve prepared for it, so it will be a real war.”
France have battled with their own form in the last few years, but a recent pair of wins over Italy and a comprehensive home success against Scotland have lifted the mood.
Captain Guilhem Guirado believes they are showing signs of improvement.
“We’ve intervened quite a bit during training, on the preparation, on how to approach that game,” he said.
“It’ll be about motivating and giving out the last instructions, motivate the players around me, feel that they’re ready and raise the pressure at the right time.
“What I take out from these last few days is that we’re strengthening.”
Argentina assistant coach Juan Fernandez Lobbe stopped short of saying it was a must-win game for his side, but with Tonga and the United States also in the pool, it most likely is do-or-die for the Pumas unless they can surprise fancied England.
“It’s very important, it’s the first game of four that we need to handle the best way possible to get into the quarter-finals, that is the first goal. I won’t call it vital, (but) it’s a very, very important game,” he said.
Argentina are known for their swift counter-attacks when winning turnover ball, but Lobbe says they must be wary of a dose of their own medicine.
“I anticipate a very physical defence and an attempt to choke us with all 13 of their players holding the line, alongside their nine and two full-backs, their 10 and 15,” he said.
“On the attack, they will work on every minute detail. It’s very much (France coach) Fabien’s (Galthie) style from the touchline, in their counter-attack, or just in general.”
France are unbeaten in seven of their eight World Cup opening matches. Their only loss came against Argentina in Paris in 2007.
(Additional Reporting by Lucien Libert; Editing by Toby Davis)