France look to England blueprint to dominate athletic USA

The Eagles have taken heart from the Brave Blossoms' success, but Les Bleus believe they have the right team and gameplan.

FUKUOKA, 1 Oct - A preview of the Pool C match between France and USA, which kicks off at 16:45 on Wednesday at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium.

The big picture

After winning a tough opening match against Argentina, France will be confident of a more resounding victory against USA, who were well beaten by England.

Coach Jacques Brunel has made 12 changes, with France's third match against Tonga just another four days away.

"USA and Tonga have different characteristics," he said.

"We'll be up against an athletic American side, even if they're less powerful than the Tongan team. We're wary of this American side because of the physical qualities they're developing. The English did a good job of dominating them. We hope to do the same."

Louis Picamoles will lead France for the first time from number eight, becoming Les Bleus' 91st captain, in place of Guilhem Guirado. The hooker is replaced by Racing 92's Camille Chat, above right, who knows he has to pace himself at the top level.

"I have to be better at controlling my own game," said the 23-year-old. "During the first match against Scotland in the summer, I burned too much energy because I wanted to do too much."

France will have seen the success England had by starving the Americans of possession and keeping them camped in their own 22 during the Eagles' 45-7 defeat in Kobe. 

The USA Eagles - who are still searching for their first Rugby World Cup win since 2011, when they beat Russia 13-6 - did at least score a try against England, replacement Bryce Campbell touching down in the last minute.

That game proved costly. Gary Gold’s side lost prop David Ainu’u to injury in the third minute, then John Quill was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Owen Farrell in the second half. With knocks to Will Hooley (concussion) and Paul Lasike (calf), the coach has been forced into more changes than he would have liked.

"I didn’t want to make too many," he said. "I just want to keep the group together as much as possible. Paul [Lasike] was injured but we’re very lucky that we have got guys of Bryce (Campbell) and Nate’s (Brakeley) calibre to step in."

As USA go in search of their first Rugby World Cup victory over Tier 1 opposition, captain Blaine Scully says Japan’s win over Ireland provides inspiration. "For us, it’s great to see a competitive World Cup where anybody can beat anybody on any given day - that’s what we want and that’s what World Rugby wants. It’s good for the game.”

Form guide (most recent matches first)

France: WWLWW

USA: LWLWW

Head-to-head:

Played 7 – France 6W, USA 1W

In the spotlight

France will target the USA set piece, a new front row of Cyril Baille, Chat and Emerick Setiano keen to make the most of their starting shot. Les Bleus will also look to use their kicking game to test Mike Te’o, who starts at full-back in place of Hooley.

Brunel's side will also need to improve their defence against any rolling mauls, positions from which they conceded two tries against Argentina, so the Eagles will be looking to apply pressure here.

AJ MacGinty needs three points to move into third place among top USA points scorers at the Rugby World Cup, behind Chris Wyles and Mike Hercus.

Team news

Gael Fickou, Arthur Iturria and Yoann Huget are the only players who start a second game in a row for France. Fickou will earn his 50th cap.

Four of the starting players for France make their Rugby World Cup debuts - Setiano, Paul Gabrillagues, Yacouba Camara and Alivereti Raka. Former Fiji sevens gold medal-winning Olympic coach Ben Ryan describes Fijian-born Raka as "box office".

USA make eight changes to their match-day squad as Eric Fry, Campbell, Te’o, Brakeley and Hanco Germishuys are handed starts. Ben Pinkelman, Thretton Palamo and Will Magie could get their first taste of 2019 World Cup action. Fry and Palamo are at their third Rugby World Cups.

Stats & trivia

The last time France and USA met, in 2004, USA led 21-17 at half-time before going down 39-31. 

France have been runners-up in three Rugby World Cups: in 1987, 1999, and 2011.

USA have won six of their nine tests in 2019, losing to Japan, Uruguay and England.

Quotes:

"I don't consider myself the third-choice scrum-half. I give my all to be the best player I can. But if you give me a responsibility, whatever it is, I try and do it to the best of my ability." – Starting scrum-half Maxime Machenaud on his rivalry with Antoine Dupont and Baptiste Serin.

"It's exciting to play against the country that I've been playing in. So going back in three or four weeks, I want to be able to look those guys in the eyes and show them I gave everything and gave France a good run for their money." - Eric Fry, who plays for French club Vannes, on facing a familiar foe.

"It’s important we stick in the arm-wrestle, it’s about bending not breaking.” - Glendale Raptors fly-half Will Magie will hope to make an impact from the bench with the game still in the balance.

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