France look to captain Picamoles to inspire against USA

Kumamoto (Japan) (AFP) –


France will look to long-serving number eight Louis Picamoles for inspiration as he captains his country for the first time against the United States in the World Cup's 'group of death'.

Les Bleus squeaked home 23-21 against Argentina in their first match and are hoping to press their advantage in the ultra-competitive Pool C, which also includes England, who beat the United States 45-7.

Coach Jacques Brunel has rung the chances for the clash in Fukuoka, on the southwestern tip of Japan, with only three players surviving from the nail-biting win over the Pumas.

Fly-half Camille Lopez, whose drop goal broke Pumas hearts, starts at 10, preferred this time to young gun Romain Ntamack.

"We tried to balance things over the two games, to play everyone. Some people will play twice. We also tried to take into account everyone's form and fitness. We had to select two teams," Brunel told reporters.

Fresh from a 10-day break after the Argentina game, France have only four days to recover from playing the Eagles before facing a highly physical Tongan XV -- not to mention the potential pool decider against eternal enemy England.

But Brunel said he was not looking ahead to "Le Crunch" in Yokohama on October 12.

"Frankly, we have not thought about our team for England. What is important is to win these two matches. If we do that and Argentina lose to England, we should have qualified" for the quarter-finals, said Brunel.

For the coach, handing Picamoles the captaincy in place of hooker Guilhem Guirado was a logical choice.

The rampaging number eight "has the most experience in this reshuffled team. And it's a position and a role that he knows" from his club side Montpellier.

The 33-year-old is the oldest player in the French squad and is enjoying his third World Cup. Although he has won 80 caps, he has never led out Les Bleus.

France will have an embarrassment of riches in the kicking department, with Lopez, scrum-half Maxime Machenaud or fullback Thomas Ramos all experienced goalkickers at club level.

- Black armbands for Chirac -

The United States put up respectable resistance to Eddie Jones' powerful side in the opening game but coach Gary Gold was furious with his players, calling on them to improve "every aspect of their game" after the 45-7 defeat.

"You can't be missing nearly 40 tackles a game and hope that you are going to be in the equation. It was a pretty awful performance by us tonight," said Gold after the game.

He has made five changes to the XV that started against England -- the majority of them enforced by injury or suspension.

John Quill, who received the tournament's first red card and was later suspended, has been replaced by Hanco Germishuys.

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.

After fears the game could be rescheduled due to a typhoon bearing down on Japan, World Rugby confirmed on Monday the match would go ahead as planned as the storm is weakening and passing to the north.

France will wear black armbands in honour of former president Jacques Chirac, who died on Thursday.