Lopez happy to play late saviour role for France

Experienced fly-half's decisive drop goal against Argentina justified his coach's prediction that the bench would be crucial.

TOKYO, 22 Sep – Camille Lopez lived up to France coach Jacques Brunel’s prediction that the bench would make a difference in their opening Rugby World Cup match against Argentina when he landed the winning drop goal in their 23-21 victory at Tokyo Stadium.

The 30-year-old fly-half began on the bench as the number 10 shirt was given to 20-year-old Romain Ntamack, but he replaced his Clermont Auvergne team-mate, Damien Penaud, after 68 minutes and, a minute later, slotted the winning points with his left foot.

"I saw that a lot of things were said during the week about the team announcement, lots of questions were asked about my status as replacement,” Lopez said.

"But I can assure you, I swear it on my children's heads: I have no worries about my role. From the moment where I'm given a mission, a role, things are clear.”

France had looked impressive in the first half and built a 20-3 lead at half-time. However, Los Pumas hit back in the second half and tries from Guido Petti Pagadizabal and Julian Montoya, a Nicolas Sanchez conversion and two Benjamin Urdapilleta penalties put Mario Ledesma’s team into the lead for the first time.

It brought back memories of their Six Nations match against Wales in Paris earlier in the year when France let slip a 16-0 half-time lead to lose 24-19.

“It was a difficult game,” France captain Guilhem Guirado said. “We are winning from the beginning, but we need to make the improvement in the second half and we should have controlled the game better.

“Compared with our training, we did not fully demonstrate what we have trained which was a bit unexpected. We would wish to have a stronger scrum.”

RNS ji/ns/bo