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France 27-12 Uruguay: Les Bleus survive huge scare and avoid Romain Taofifenua red card to win Rugby World Cup Pool A Test

Antoine Hastoy (11), Peato Mauvaka (55), Louis Bielle-Biarrey (73) score tries for France in below-par World Cup Pool A victory vs Uruguay in Lille; TMO Ben Whitehouse controversially ruled not to upgrade Romain Taofifenua yellow card to red, despite shoulder-to-head tackle, with no wrap

France's Peato Mauvaka
Image: Peato Mauvaka scored a crucial try for France, who survived a big scare facing Uruguay in Rugby World Cup Pool A

France eventually saw off a brave Uruguay to bank a 27-12 Rugby World Cup Pool A victory at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, as Romain Taofifenua controversially avoided a red card.

Anthony Jelonch returned from a lengthy ACL injury absence to captain the team as part of 12 changes to the starting XV which had opened the tournament with an impressive victory over three-time world champions New Zealand in Paris.

Les Bleus went in front from an early Melvyn Jaminet penalty after Uruguay had collapsed the scrum.

The home fans, though, were then left in stunned silence when Jaminet failed to gather a deep cross-field kick out on the touchline. Nicolas Freitas picked up the loose ball to dart down the left and score in the corner.

Uruguay's team players celebrate their try during the Rugby World Cup Pool A match between France and Uruguay at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve-d'Ascq, near Lille, France, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Image: Uruguay scored two tries in the clash in Lille, and will feel they should have been facing 14 for most of the Test

France responded with a try in the 11th minute when Antoine Hastoy burst through off the scrum, which Jaminet converted and then further extended the lead with another penalty.

Taofifenua was sent to the sin-bin after the French lock caught Santiago Arata high with his shoulder going into a tackle - which remained at a yellow card after review by the TMO, Welshman Ben Whitehouse, when on another night it could have been deemed a red.

Uruguay, playing their first match in Pool A, had a try ruled out in the 35th minute when Felipe Etcheverry dived over, with Tomas Inciarte penalised for an obstruction in the build-up as France went into half-time 13-5 ahead.

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Romain Taofifénua
Image: France second row Romain Taofifénua was sin-binned in the first half for a tackle to the head of Santiago Arata, while not wrapping his arm

France thought they had scored a try early in the second half when Gabin Villiere collected a loose ball to run in, but it had been inadvertently knocked-on off Jelonch's shoulder.

Uruguay then reduced the deficit to 13-12 after Baltazar Amaya powered over in the corner and Etcheverry made the conversion.

France, though, responded again when Peato Mauvaka touched down under the posts after a fortunate ricochet from Etcheverry's clearance to settle the home fans' nerves once again.

Any hopes of a comeback from Los Teros were finally ended after Louis Bielle-Biarrey went over in the corner before Sekou Macalou's breakaway 80-metre try was ruled out by the TMO for kicking through the ruck.

What's next?

Hosts France next face Namibia on Thursday September 21, in their third Rugby World Cup Pool A game, at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille (8pm kick-off BST).

Uruguay are next in action vs Italy on Wednesday September 20, for their third Rugby World Cup Pool A match, at the Stade de Nice (4.45pm kick-off BST).

Ibanez: France will learn from battling clash with Uruguay | Vilaseca: Just the start for us

France team manager Raphael Ibanez said post-match...

"It was a hard battle, but a second win for us in this competition, which is the most important," Ibanez said, quoted on the Rugby World Cup website.

"We made some mistakes with the ball in hand and it was difficult for us to play with a good structure.

"We didn't take the points at the end of the first half - it's a World Cup game - and we will learn from that."

Uruguay captain Andreas Vilaseca said post-match...

"I am so proud of my team. I could not ask for a better team to lead," he said.

"We were fighting against France, one of the best teams in the world, playing on their home ground - this is only the beginning for us."

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