Uruguay were one of the four sides to sit out the opening weekend of the Rugby World Cup and the underdogs are expected to be on the end of a bit of a bashing when they face hosts France.
Les Bleus overcame a nervy start to delight the Stade de France with a fabulous 27-13 win over New Zealand on Friday to give them control of Pool A and, they will hope, set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
As expected, Fabien Galthie has made significant changes to his XV for Thursday’s match in Lille, with only three players retaining their starting spots from the victory over the All Blacks.
The Uruguayans will be tough and tenacious, with talented scrum-half Santiago Arata, who plays club rugby in France for Castres, and fly-half Felipe Etchverry tasked with guiding them around the field.
France had spells when they were sensational in the opener and while Les Bleus should win in style on Thursday, they may take time to settle.
It should come as no surprise that France are heavy favourites in this game, with odds of just 1/100 to get the win. The tie is 100/1 with the Uruguay win out at 28/1. This is why the spread will garner plenty of attention with France a 63.5 favourite in the handicap market. No fewer than ten French players are odds-on to score a try, with Gabin Villiere the and Louis Bielle-Biarrey the two shortest prices at 1/5.
Back-rower Anthony Jelonch has battled back from a knee ligament injury suffered in February and has been rewarded with the captaincy, taking the honour for the second time after also leading Les Bleus against Australia in 2021.
Yoram Moefana, Gabin Villiere and Cameron Woki are the only players retained in the run-on side from the win over New Zealand, with Melvyn Jaminet, the final try-scorer on Friday, coming in at full-back and Maxime Lucu and Antoine Hastoy paired in the halves.
For Uruguay, Etchverry has been selected at number 10 ahead of Felipe Berchesi and Arata has been passed fit following a hand injury.
He is one of five players who play their rugby in France, while captain Andres Vilaseca and replacement scrum-half Agustin Ormaechea are set to become the first Uruguayans to play at three Rugby World Cups.
Uruguay +53 @ 10/11
The decision to take the French team around the country to boost interest and build momentum looks set to generate a lively atmosphere in Lille.
Uruguay will look to feed off that and are unlikely to take a backward step.
They beat Fiji in 2019, ending a 16-year wait for a victory. That result was the culmination of steady improvement, covering significant handicaps in all four matches in 2015 and repeating that against Wales and Australia four years ago.
Their biggest game at this tournament will be against Namibia, whom they beat 26-18 in August. That fixture takes place in Lyon on September 27 but Los Teros will also be determined to show they belong at this level by performing in their other matches.
France have the firepower to run riot but their much-changed side may take time to settle, allowing Esteban Meneses’ men to get on the board and the Uruguayans could again come in below the handicap.
Anthony Jelonch Anytime Tryscorer @ 8/11
Winger Louis Bielle-Biarrey and Villiere are likely to be well supported in the tryscorer markets, as is back-rower Sekou Macalou, who has the speed and ball-handling skills of a centre and scored a try in the warm-up win over Fiji.
However, there is likely to be more value in backing Jelonch to cross. He and fellow Toulouse back-rower Francois Cros have battled for the final spot alongside Charles Ollivon and Gregory Aldritt in the France team and he will be looking to prove he deserves a place.
Jelonch’s magnificent recovery has come as a real boost to Galthie’s squad and a fourth international try appears something to look out for.