France have started to arrive in Lille, where it is still around 22C as we approach 8pm local time.
Uruguay have smaller fish to fry
Uruguay go into their tournament opener as huge underdogs having only won three of their 15 games at a World Cup.
Despite the disparity between the two teams, Uruguay winger Ignacio Facciolo is relishing the opportunity.
He said on the tournament’s website: “I want to play and test myself at the highest level.
“The group goal is to beat Italy and Namibia and qualify for Rugby World Cup 2027. We do not rule out the France and New Zealand games.
“We are going to play them as equals and we are going to go out and win. Uruguay will never give up a game as a lost cause.”
Moment of solidarity
A moment of solidarity will be held before France play Uruguay in the Rugby World Cup in Lille on Thursday following the deadly disasters in Morocco and Libya, rugby’s governing body said.
An earthquake of 6.8 magnitude last Friday killed nearly 3,000 people in Morocco, the deadliest quake to hit North Africa since 1960. In Libya’s east, a torrent resulting from a powerful storm burst dams and killed thousands, with many more missing.
“A moment of solidarity will be observed ahead of the anthems at the France v Uruguay Rugby World Cup 2023 Pool A match in Lille on Thursday to remember those affected by the floods in Libya and earthquake in Morocco,” World Rugby said in a statement.
“Rugby World Cup 2023 and the global rugby family stands in solidarity with the people of Libya and Morocco at this extremely difficult time.”
‘French reserves will take Uruguay seriously’
Although coach Fabien Galthie made 12 changes to the team who beat New Zealand in their opening game, France will not take things lightly when they face Uruguay in Pool A, he said.
Les Bleus started their campaign with a 27-13 win against the All Blacks to flex their maiden title credentials and it was expected that most of the players in the starting line-up would be rested at Lille’s Pierre Mauroy stadium.
Galthie kept Yoram Moefana, Cameron Woki and Gabin Villiere, but wanted to involve the usual replacements – the ‘finishers’ as he likes to call them.
Hooker Pierre Bourgarit, who might get more playing time than expected after Julien Marchand sustained a thigh injury against three-time champions New Zealand, is one of them and he is ready for a big fight against the South American side.
“We’re getting into this game just like the one against New Zealand. There’s a gap (between the two teams) on paper, but the Uruguay players will want to do well,” he told a press conference on Wednesday.
“There is too much to lose by looking down on them.”
Tough and determined Uruguay are no pushovers or strangers to this stage and they will be hopeful of adding to their trio of World Cup wins this year.
They are behind Argentina as the second-best side in the Americas, but will surely be brushed aside with ease by both France and a wounded All Blacks team in Pool A. Both games will purely be an exercise in damage limitation from the outset.
Meneses will be pragmatic and know full well that the meeting with Namibia in Lyon on September 27 represents by far their best chance of victory in an otherwise very tricky group, having beaten the Welwitschias 26-18 in a World Cup warm-up clash in Montevideo only last month.
Uruguay also saw off an Argentina XV and narrowly edged out World Cup debutants Chile, having been bested by Georgia last autumn. In the summer, they lost twice to Japan and split a pair of matches against Romania, having stubbornly only lost 17-10 to Italy in Parma the previous year.
This will be an inevitable shellacking to boost French confidence and belief even further, but Uruguay won’t lose heart.
France to win, by at least 35 points.
Uruguay team news and lineups
Uruguay have welcomed back scrum-half Santiago Arata, star of their 2019 World Cup victory over Fiji, for the game.
An experienced squad contains 11 survivors in the starting lineup from that 2019 tournament and three more on the bench. Key among them is fly-half Felipe Etcheverry, a rugby sevens stalwart capable of a clean break when in space as much as he controls the game with kicks out of hand.
Andres Vilaseca of French club Vannes captains from inside centre against a France side who have made sweeping changes but will still pose a monumental challenge for the South Americans.
Uruguay XV: Amaya; Basso, Inciarte, Vilaseca (c), Freitas; Etcheverry, Arata; Diana, Civetta, Ardao, Leindekar, Aliaga, Peculo, Pujadas, Sanguinetti
Replacements: Gattas, Benitez, Piussi, Dotti, Bianchi, Deus, Ormaechea, Berchesi
France team news and lineups
France were already without starting fly-half Romain Ntamack, influential lock Paul Willemse and loosehead prop Cyril Baille against the All Blacks, plus powerful centre Jonathan Danty, with that casualty list only growing further after a hugely physical affair in Paris. Ntamack and Willemse are out for the whole tournament.
Hooker Julien Marchand suffered a hamstring injury early in the opener, with Peato Mauvaka deputising admirably in his absence. It remains to be seen when he or Baille might return, though both front-row forwards remain with Galthie’s squad as things stand.
Pierre Bourgarit gets the No2 shirt against Uruguay as France ring the changes with 12 in total, with flanker Anthony Jelonch captaining the side on his first appearance since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in the Six Nations win against Scotland back in February.
France XV: Jaminet; Bielle-Biarrey, Vincent, Moefana, Villiere; Hastoy, Lucu; Gros, Bourgarit, Aldegheri; Woki, Taofifenua; Boudehent, Macalou, Jelonch (c)
Replacements: Mauvaka, Wardi, Falatea, Chalureau, Flament, Cros, Couilloud, Ramos
Where to watch
TV channel: In the UK, tonight’s game will be broadcast live and free to air on ITV4, with coverage starting at 7:15pm.
Live stream: Fans can also catch the action live online via the ITVX website and app.
Good evening and welcome to the Evening Standard’s LIVE coverage of the Rugby World Cup clash between France and Uruguay.
It’s game two for the hosts but game one for their opponents, so a bit of the unexpected awaits in Lille.
Kick-off is at 8pm UK time, so stick with us.