France v Japan in Albany (World Cup, Pool A)
Venue: North Harbour Stadium
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
I'm off soon to see this game. I lived much of my life from the teenage years on the North Shore but I have never been to this stadium, built after I moved to Australia.
I Love following the French rugby team. Brilliant one game, very ordinary the next. They are so unpredictable I don't think I have every made an accurate score prediction.
France are odds on favourite to cause some sort of stir and/or upset at this tournament. Today they face a Japanese side who come ito the tournament the underdog and with a mixed record.
Japan easily won the Asia 5 Nations tournament and then won the Pacific Nations tournament for the first time. Coach John Kirwan has this team running smoothly. A narrow 24-31 loss to Italy in one of its World Cup warm up games blotted the record book (and they lost to Samoa in the Pacific Nations). I'm not expecting a French loss and at best Japan could get to within 20 points.
France will field, predictably, a mixed team of experience and inexperience. They will want a good win to set up the big clashh against the All Blacks next weekend.
18.10.2003 France 51-29 in Townsville (World Cup, Pool D)
27.10.1973 France 30-18 in Bordeaux
GWC Rugby Rankings
World Table-France 5th, Japan 12th
IRB Ranking Points
France 82.69, Japan 71.96
Prediction: France by 41 points
France15 Cedric Heymans, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Raphael Lakafia, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, Capt. 5 Julien Pierre, 4 Lionel Nallet, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Fabien Barcella.
16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Julien Bonnaire, 19 Pascal Papé, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 David Skrela, 22 David Marty
Head Coach: Marc Lievremont
Japan15 Shaun Webb, 14 Kosuke Endo, 13 Koji Taira, 12 Ryan Nicholas, 11 Hirotoki Onozawa, 10 James Arlidge, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Ryukoliniasi Holani, 7 Michael Leitch, 6 Takashi Kikutani, Capt. 5 Toshizumi Kitagawa, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Hisateru Hirashima.
16 Yusuke Aoki, 17 Nozomu Fujita, 18 Hitoshi Ono, 19 Itaru Taniguchi, 20 Atsushi Hiwasa, 21 Murray Williams, 22 Alisi Tupuailai.
Heaed Coach: John Kirwan