The Rugby World Cup 2023 is set to heat up as Uruguay, one of the teams that had a bye week in the first round, faces off against the formidable hosts, France, in a thrilling match taking place in Lille as part of Pool A.
Despite making 12 changes to their starting XV from the team that handed New Zealand a historic pool phase defeat in the tournament’s opening match, France remains the undeniable favorites. However, they should approach this game with caution, as Uruguay has made significant strides in recent years and is eager to prove their mettle on the world stage.
The Uruguayan team harbors no shortage of ambition. Ignacio Facciolo, their winger, declared earlier this week, “I want to play at the highest level and test myself. Our group’s goal is to defeat Italy and Namibia and secure a spot in the Rugby World Cup 2027. We do not underestimate the France and New Zealand games; we will face them as equals and strive to win. Uruguay never surrenders a game as a lost cause.”
With such a bold statement, the challenge is laid before France.
Match: France vs. Uruguay
Venue: Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille (Capacity: 50,096)
Kick-off: 21:00 local time (GMT+2)
This encounter marks the first time these two nations have clashed on the rugby field since the 1960s when a French side toured Argentina and Uruguay.
In the Rugby World Cup 2019, Uruguay pulled off a stunning upset by defeating Fiji with a score of 30-27 at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium. Santiago Arata, Manuel Diana, Juan Manuel Cat, and Felipe Berchesi were the heroes, putting Uruguay ahead 24-12 at halftime. Despite Fiji’s late attempts at a comeback, this match stands as one of the biggest shocks in Rugby World Cup history.
Key Talking Point:
Four years ago, Uruguay triumphed over Fiji, a team ranked nine places higher, in World Rugby’s rankings. Now, they face an even more formidable challenge against France, who are ranked 14 places above them. On paper, it might appear to be a one-sided contest, but Uruguay, with their close-knit squad, has nothing to lose. Many of their players share the same club experience, and some even play in France, which sets the stage for a potentially thrilling contest.
In the absence of Antoine Dupont, French rugby fans will have the opportunity to witness the talents of Santiago Arata, possibly the second-best scrum-half in the French Top 14, who currently plays for Uruguay. Rumors suggest that Toulouse is interested in signing Arata from his current club, Castres Olympique, in anticipation of Dupont’s post-Olympic Games sabbatical. The one-on-one battle between Arata and France’s Maxime Lucu promises to be captivating.
Diego Ormaechea holds the distinction of being Uruguay’s first try-scorer at a Rugby World Cup and remains the oldest player in the competition’s history. He was 40 years and 26 days old when he took the field against South Africa at Hampden Park in 1999, shortly after his try helped Uruguay secure a 27-15 victory against Spain. Continuing the family legacy, his sons Agustín and Juan Diego are also part of Uruguay’s Rugby World Cup journey, with Agustín sitting on the bench for the upcoming match in Lille.
The match will be officiated by Ben O’Keeffe from New Zealand, a qualified ophthalmologist and co-founder of a social enterprise dedicated to creating medical technology to prevent blindness.
France: Melvyn Jaminet; Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Arthur Vincent, Yoram Moefana, Gabin Villière; Antoine Hastoy, Maxime Lucu; Jean-Baptiste Gros, Pierre Bourgarit, Dorian Aldegheri; Cameron Woki, Romain Taofifenua; Paul Boudehent, Sekou Macalou, Anthony Jelonch (captain)
Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Reda Wardi, Sipili Falatea, Bastien Chalureau, Thibaud Flament, François Cros, Baptiste Couilloud, Thomas Ramos
Uruguay: Baltazar Amaya; Bautista Basso, Tomas Inciarte, Andres Vilaseca (captain), Nicolas Freitas; Felipe Etcheverry, Santiago Arata; Mateo Sanguinetti, Guillermo Pujadas, Ignacio Peculo; Felipe Aliaga, Manuel Leindekar; Manuel Ardao, Santiago Civetta, Manuel Diana
Replacements: Facundo Gattas, Matias Benitez, Reinaldo Piussi, Ignacio Dotti, Lucas Bianchi, Carlos Deus, Agustin Ormaechea, Felipe Berchesi