Match Preview – Australia vs France

The Wallabies will be confident of beating an understrength France side fresh out of quarantine in Brisbane on Wednesday, but they would do well to remember Argentina’s remarkable campaign in Australia last year.

United by the bonds forged in a grim period of isolation, the Pumas stormed out of the traps in their Tri-Nations opener to record their first victory over the All Blacks before holding the Wallabies to two draws.

France are not renowned tourists and have brought a weakened squad to Australia, but there can be little doubt they will be similarly desperate to get out onto the field and play after two weeks cooped up in a Sydney hotel.

In the absence of those who featured in the Top 14 final, France coach Fabien Galthie has named seven uncapped players in his matchday 23 with full-back Melvyn Jaminet and hooker Gaetan Barlot in the starting side.

“We think they’re the best team we’ve got, the most competitive side that we can take to Brisbane in two days,” said Galthie.

“Australia will try to bring a lot of intensity. They will try to dominate us physically. They think we’re going to watch them play.”

Galthie has named only two backs on his bench and the Wallabies pack can expect the French to meet fire with fire in the forward battle.

In contrast to France’s hotel car park training pitch, the Wallabies have been preparing for the three-Test series in secluded luxury on the Gold Coast.

It has been no holiday camp, however, as coach Dave Rennie has been working to get his players to the level of fitness he believes is required to compete with the world’s best teams.

The New Zealander has gone for heft in his pack but was forced to pick the inexperienced Noah Lolesio at fly-half with James O’Connor sidelined by injury.

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Rennie said selecting the 21-year-old for his second Test start was “a pretty easy choice”.

“He’s a confident kid, he’s prepared to boss the big boys around,” said Rennie

“[He has the] ability to play flat and on top of defences [and] he’s put a lot of focus on his general kicking game, and his goalkicking has been excellent.”

With restrictions eased in Brisbane last weekend, there will be a crowd at Lang Park for the first meeting between the nations since 2016, and the first since Galthie was charged with building a team for France’s hosting of the World Cup in 2023.

“The goal now is to turn this issue into an opportunity,” added France’s team manager Raphael Ibanez.

“But we believe we have enough talent to match the best.”

Australia: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Matt To’omua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Jake Gordon, 1 James Slipper, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 4 Matt Philip, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 6 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 8 Harry Wilson.

Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Isi Naisarani, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Len Ikitau, 23 Andrew Kellaway.

France: 15 Melvyn Jaminet, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 1 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 2 Gaëtan Barlot, 3 Demba Bamba, 4 Killian Geraci, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 6 Dylan Cretin, 7 Anthony Jelonch (c), 8 Sekou Macalou.

Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Quentin Walcker, 18 Tapu Falatea, 19 Baptiste Pesenti, 20 Florent Vanverberghe, 21 Cameron Woki, 22 Teddy Iribaren, 23 Anthony Bouthier.

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