For those of us who thought this game would be a damp squibb – wrong. Both sides turned up ready to rumble, as evidenced by the constant niggle and sniping throughout. But what this game made clear to me, more than any other, was what has gone wrong with ‘modern rugby’.
What we saw in this game were two sides, both with similar roots in latin rugby, at polar opposites. The best way to describe the Argentinians was ‘electric’. In the forwards they bullied France, both in the scrum and the loose. In the backs, any time they got a sniff of space, they were all over the Frogs like a cheap suit.
What they did beautifully was what is now called ‘heads up rugby'; playing with instinct and flair. Argentina proved that you can have a strong 10 man game, but then turn on the champagne when required. Take note England, but then also Australia from the reverse perspective. Longo, Pichot, Hernandez, and Corieto amongst others, played themselves into world 15 territory. Argentina had spotted that 3rd in the comp was not so much a ‘coup’ for them, but their rightful place in this world cup, and they were determined to claim it.
France? Tonight they epitomised the worst of percentage driven modern rugby, but then they didn’t even do that well, making mistakes at the very worst times. I’ve never seen a french team as disassociated from french rugby as I have in this world cup. It was as if Eddie Jones had been let loose on them to drive out every shred of innovation and turn them into a team that couldn’t scrum and kick as well as the Pumas, and then couldn’t match them running either. Their aimless kicking was tragic.
Michalak spat the dummy, and it was fitting that the man that just might have dragged them out of this world cup quagmire – Captain Caveman – was hamstrung by Laporte, coming on late as a reserve lock, rather than starting in a position where he could have made a difference. Bernhard, here’s the truth; you didn’t fµck Chabal nearly as much as you fµcked yourself. Smartarse.
So thanks to both teams for getting it on when no-one expected it. But an extra thanks for highlighting just where the future of rugby is; re-discovering the ‘joie de vivre’ that has always made rugby great. Forgotten under pressure by Australia, New Zealand and France. Pushed to new levels by Argentina, Tonga and Fiji.
Tries: F Contepomi 2, Hasan Jalil, Aramburu, Corleto
Cons: F Contepomi 3
Pens: F Contepomi
Yellow cards: Raphaël Ibañez (France, 40 – foul play), Alberto Vernet Basualdo (Argentina, 40 – repeated offences), Juan Manuel Leguizamón (Argentina, 63 – foul play)
France: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Aurélien Rougerie, 13 David Marty, 12 David Skrela, 11 Christophe Dominici, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 8 Imañol Harinordoquy, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Jérôme Thion, 4 Lionel Nallet, 3 Pieter de Villiers, 2 Raphaël Ibañez (captain), 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Sebastian Bruno, 17 Nicolas Mas, 18 Sébastien Chabal, 19 Rémy Martin, 20 Pierre Mignoni, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Vincent Clerc.
Argentina: 15 Ignacio Corleto, 14 Federico Martin Aramburu, 13 Manuel Contepomi, 12 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Agustín Pichot (captain), 8 Gonzalo Longo Elía, 7 Juan Martín Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Martín Durand, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Rimas Álvarez Kairelis, 3 Omar Hasan Jalil, 2 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Marcos Ayerza, 17 Eusebio Guiñazu, 18 Esteban Lozada, 19 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 20 Nicolás Fernandez Miranda, 21 Federico Todeschini, 22 Hernán Senillosa.
Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Stuart Dickinson (Australia), Nigel Owens (Wales)
Television match official: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa)