France ring the changes for USA clash at Rugby World Cup

Louis Picamoles of France and Matías Moroni of Argentina get involved after the final whistle of the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool C match at the Tokyo Stadium in Chofu, Japan.
Louis Picamoles of France and Matías Moroni of Argentina get involved after the final whistle of the 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool C match at the Tokyo Stadium in Chofu, Japan.
Image: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Louis Picamoles will captain France for the first time on Wednesday, leading out a much-changed French XV to play the United States in the Rugby World Cup's "group of death".

Coach Jacques Brunel has rotated his squad, making 12 changes to the team that pipped Argentina 23-21 as Les Bleus prepare for a potentially group-deciding "Le Crunch" against old enemies England on October 12 in Yokohama.

Only flanker Arthur Iturria, inside-centre Gael Fickou and winger Yoann Huget survive from the XV that beat the Pumas in the opening game, a win that put France in the Pool C box seat.

Rampaging number 8 Picamoles will earn his 81st cap but has never captained the national side. He replaces Guilhem Guirado as leader of the team, the hooker dropping to the bench.

France have enjoyed a 10-day rest since their nail-biting win over Argentina but now play Tonga and England in quick succession as they seek to top Pool C, the winner of which will likely play Australia in the quarter-finals.

Camille Lopez, whose drop goal proved the difference between France and Argentina on the opening weekend, will start at fly-half, forming a half-back partnership with Maxime Machenaud.

Brunel said he had picked a team to play a United States team that were "athletic but less powerful than Tonga".

Selecting Picamoles as captain was the logical choice, added Brunel.

"He is the one with the most experience in this reshuffled team. And it's a position and a role that he knows well."

Meanwhile, USA coach Gary Gold made five changes to the side that lost 45-7 to England, many of them enforced by injury or suspension.

John Quill, who is suspended after suffering the ignominy of receiving the tournament's first red card, has been replaced by Hanco Germishuy.

Bryce Campbell and Mike Teo have been named to replace the injured pair of Paul Lasike and Will Hooley. And Eric Fry has been picked in place of David Ainu'u, who left the World Cup after sustaining a bad ankle injury.

"From the pack to a really dangerous backline, they have threats across the field," said captain Blaine Scully, contemplating the difficulties Les Bleus will pose.

"If we stick to our process and stick to our structures and our game plan, we feel like we can compete with anybody in the world and that's what we're here to do."


France (15-1):

Thomas Ramos; Alivereti Raka, Sofiane Guitoune, Gael Fickou, Yoann Huget; Camille Lopez, Maxime Machenaud; Louis Picamoles (capt), Yacouba Camara, Arthur Iturria; Paul Gabrillagues, Bernard Le Roux; Emerick Setiano, Camille Chat, Cyril Baille

Replacements: Guilhem Guirado, Jefferson Poirot, Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Gregory Alldritt, Baptiste Serin, Romain Ntamack, Maxime Medard


USA (15-1):

Mike Teo; Blaine Scully (capt), Marcel Brache, Bryce Campbell, Martin Iosefo; AJ MacGinty, Shaun Davies; Cam Dolan, Hanco Germishuys, Tony Lamborn; Nick Civetta, Nate Brakeley; Titi Lamositele, Joe Taufetee, Eric Fry

Replacements: Dylan Fawsitt, Olive Kilifi, Paul Mullen, Greg Peterson, Ben Pinkelman, Ruben de Haas, Will Magie, Thretton Palamo