Special envoy to Lille
The brilliant coup achieved on Friday evening against the All Blacks is still in everyone's memory. A prestigious, historic success, which cannot be contested, but which must already be forgotten. Now for Uruguay, a modest 17th nation in the world rankings, but which is playing the fifth World Cup in its history. “It’s a team from South America, with essential fighting values and a big heart. Uruguay is a country apart, with its fundamental values which are notably combat and pride, warns Fabien Galthié. We expect a team that will have a lot of energy and a lot of aggression.”
For this second stage - on the plain after an exceptional pass - the French coach decided to leave his executives to rest, to give them a break before the more important deadlines which will be the last group match against Italy then the enormous quarter-final which is expected, a priori, against South Africa or Ireland. For this Thursday evening (9 p.m., TF1), it's a big blue upheaval with 12 changes compared to the starting XV against the New Zealanders. Only second row Cameron Woki, center Yoram Moefana and winger Gabin Villière retain their starting place. For the rest, the usual understudies will be on deck. “More than the desire to rest the executives, it is the desire to build a team, to ensure that it is as efficient as possible for the matches to come,” explained William Servat, the forwards coach.
This meeting at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium against the “Teros” (the bird which is their symbol) will be marked by the return to competition of Anthony Jelonch, who had seriously injured his knee against Scotland during the last Tournament of six nations. The hinge will be made up of the usual “finishers”, namely scrum half Maxime Lucu and fly-half Antoine Hastoy. “You only experience this once, I just want to play and play well,” confides the opener for the Maritimes, European champions. I feel very good physically and I want us to go out with smiles on Thursday evening.”
Distrustful however, Uruguay had created the feat of the World Cup in Japan, by taking the scalp of Fiji (30-27). “You have to say to yourself that, in rugby, there is no easy match. It will be complicated until the end, insists third row Sekou Macalou. We are at home: there is the obligation to win and the public gives us a lot of motivation. No appointment should be made lightly.” And Fabien Galthié does not want to hear about discounted French XVs, or understudies sent to the fire. “It’s the best team in France at the moment for this match. At all levels: in terms of freshness, motivation and associations,” insists the coach.
There remains the case of Bastien Chalureau, who could come into play at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium. Just before the start of the competition, the Montpellier second row was at the heart of a controversy over his presence in the French team, after his conviction in November 2020 for violence and racist insults (he appealed). But he received the support of the entire France group. What the manager of the Blues, Raphaël Ibanez, confirmed: “Everyone spoke on the subject last week, Bastien himself. He prepared like a professional player, who is an integral part of the group. I have no particular doubts. For us, what actually matters is that he can express his full potential, with his teammates, and I can assure you that his motivation is very strong to meet the team's expectations. This is the challenge that awaits him tomorrow (Thursday).” Let's see what the northern public will think of it.
Composition of XV de France: Jaminet - Bielle-Biarrey, Vincent, Moefana, Villière - (o) Hastoy, (m) Lucu - Macalou, Jelonch (cap), Boudehent - Taofifenua, Woki - Aldegheri, Bourgarit, Gros.
Substitutes: Mauvaka, Wardi, Falatea, Chalureau, Flament, Cros, Couilloud, Ramos.
Uruguay: Amaya - Basso, Inciarte, Vilaseca (cap.), Freitas - (or) Etcheverry, (m) Arata - Civetta, Diana, Ardao - Leindekar, Aliaga - Peculo, Pujadas, Sanguinetti.
Substitutes: Gattas, Benitez, Piussi, Dotti, Bianchi, Deus, Ormaechea, Berchesi.