France eventually saw off a brave Uruguay to continue their perfect start to the World Cup after grinding out a 27-12 win at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille. The home fans, though, were then left in stunned silence early on when Nicolas Freitas picked up the loose ball to dart down the left and score in the corner.
France responded with a try through Antoine Hastoy and Melvyn Jaminet penalties. before Romain Taofifenua was sin-binned after catching Santiago Arata high with his shoulder going into a tackle. 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.
France has two tries disallowed - Gabin Villiere and Sekou Macalou denied - either side of Baltazar Amaya powering over in the corner, but Peato Mauvaka and youngster Louis Bielle-Biarrey eventually sealed a hard-fought win. Read back all the action from the Stade Pierre-Mauroy with our dedicated Rugby World Cup blog below!
France vs Uruguay latest news
22:05 , Alex Young
21:54 , Alex Young
81min: That’s it! Uruguay should be very proud of themselves.
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80min: Into added time and Uruguay are pushing.
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78min: Uruguay haven’t given up just yet.
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76min: Macalou thinks he has added another try but it’s allowed for a knock on.
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74min: Jaminet makes no mistake.
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73min: Bielle-Biarrey, aged just 20, runs through and scores! What a moment for the young star!
21:39 , Alex Young
70min: France try to build something after overturning possession, but everything is just so rushed. Nervous.
Just twice they have hit double figures in terms of phases, according to ITV. That wasn’t expected.
21:37 , Alex Young
67min: This has been such a strange game in the scrum. Uruguay drive to the line but drop the ball for another scrum... which they lose. The seventh penalty conceded in teh scrum, and it honestly feels like twice that.
21:34 , Alex Young
64min: France give away a penalty in the scrum and Uruguay have their belief back.
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62min: I’m not sure when this turf was laid but it’s coming up like an ill-fitting carpet.
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60min: Uruguay look certain to concede another try after France win a lineout, but manage to win a penalty from the rolling maul. They’ve not given up yet.
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57min: I fear Uruguay’s heads have dropped after France’s latest. Still over 20 minutes to play.
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55min: France hit back straight away and it’s so unfortunate for Etcheverry, whose kick hits a team-mate and into Mauvaka path to touch down. Conversion is good.
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53min: Amaya again spots a gap in the defence and this time it pays dividends! Etcheverry nails the conversion.
21:14 , Alex Young
50min: France now get a try disallowed after Villiere runs through the posts. It’s come off Jelonch’s arms for a knock on.
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49min: Jaminet goes for the posts from just behind the halfway line, he has the distance but is a couple yards wide. He looks pained.
21:12 , Alex Young
48min: A reprieve for the hosts as they win a penalty from another scrum.
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46min: France have not started this half well. They are penalised for not sending the lineout straight, and then lose the scrum.
If they don’t buck their ideas up...
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43min: They make the lineout work but France eventually overturn.
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42min: Uruguay starting the second half how they finished the first by stunning the French with a superb drive at their line. Amaya breaks the French defensive line and makes it a good 25 yards before being dragged down. France then give away a penalty for a hand in the ruck.
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41min: Back underway!
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The hosts have been pretty dominant despite the sin-binning, but Uruguay have had their chances when they eventually get hand on ball.
How will they fare after the break? Second half is imminent.
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41min: Halftime as Uruguay win a penalty and boot into touch.
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39min: France kick for the corner and Villiere looks to score but the ball goes inches over the deadball line. So close.
20:45 , Alex Young
37min: Uruguay have certainly given a good show of themselves so far tonight, and by the looks of it certainly more than what France were expected.
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34min: Uruguay think they have scored again but Inciarte is penalised for obstruction in the build-up.
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32min: Taofifenua yellow card will remain just that after a review.
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31min: Point proven immediately as France give away a penalty through a knock-on. Uruguay win the scrum and send it left to Arata, who sends Freitas sprinting down the wing before being dragged back.
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29min: I do wonder if France are getting a bit ahead of themselves. They know they’ve almost certainly got the game in the bag but are trying to be a bit cute perhaps.
20:32 , Alex Young
27min: Play is stopped as Taofifenua’s high challenge on Arata is going for a review. Either way, he has been booked. It could be a red.
20:30 , Alex Young
27min: Uruguay win the scrum and will take a lineout, which they make good headway with to push France back beyond the 22.
20:29 , Alex Young
25min: France take the lineout, bring the ball down and again Uruguay make a right battle out of it to win the scrum about five yards from their line.
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24min: They lose the scrum, of course.
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23min: Civetta climbs up, over and then down into the tackle to win the scrum! That was very impressive.
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20min: Seems only a matter of time before France score again. They are almost toying with Uruguay.
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18min: Uruguay take one step forward and two back as they turn over possession near the France 22 but then Leindekar knocks on to give away a scrum... which they again lose.
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16min: Jaminet makes it three from three after Uruguay give away another penalty. Straight down the middle.
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13min: Jaminet makes no mistake.
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12min: Well, that didn’t last long. A scrum five yards out is won easily and Hastoy is soon on the run, ducking in to score.
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9min: Uruguay almost caught out as Jelonch goes for a wander, skipping past a few challenges, before getting dragged down. Almost an instant reply.
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7min: Etcheverry shanks the conversion, so the score remains at 5-3 in favour of the South Americans.
20:10 , Alex Young
6min: Oh my! Uruguay have the early try as Freitas takes advantage of a spill by Jaminet to bundle over in the corner!
Freitas cups his hands to his ears as the stadium falls silent.
20:07 , Alex Young
4min: France are on the board! Jaminet absolutely wallops it through the posts.
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3min: An early scrum and France win the penalty.
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1min: Here we go!
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But first: a moment of solidarity following the deadly disasters in Morocco and Libya.
Plenty of shushing and couple of whistles, but otherwise well observed.
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Here come the teams. The Stade Pierre-Mauroy is rocking.
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Right, all that pre-match prep has been done. Teams out shortly.
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Do Uruguay have a chance tonight?
19:39 , Alex Young
I think someone is setting a trend.
— Standard Sport (@standardsport) September 14, 2023
19:32 , Alex Young
France's Louis Bielle-Biarrey made quite an impression with his silky footwork in his first test, scoring a try in a warm-up match against Scotland, and the electric winger will become his country's youngest player to feature at a World Cup tonight.
The 20-year-old made the squad after featuring in three warm-up games and, while he is behind the likes of Damian Penaud and Gabin Villiere in the pecking order, all eyes will be on the Bordeaux-Begles player when he starts against Uruguay in Pool A.
Bielle-Biarrey has only played 28 matches in the French Top 14 since his debut in January 2022 as he also pursues business and administration management studies.
"I've got some catching up to do. When it comes to studying, it's obviously more complicated. It's going to take a little longer, but I intend to see it through," Bielle-Biarrey told reporters on Tuesday.
Bielle-Biarrey, who also plays at full-back, will be 80 days younger than Romain Ntamack when the fly-half made his World Cup debut in Japan in 2019.
"It doesn't mean much to me. I'm happy to hear it, but it's not going to help us become world champions,” he said. “Obviously I'm very happy (to start). Everything's happened so fast for me. I don't really realise."
19:20 , Alex Young
Uruguay president Luis Lacalle Pou is in town tonight for the game as his nation kicks off their World Cup campaign.
Nicolas Freitas said of the VIP spectator: "As soon as we wear this jersey, we know we represent a lot of people: family, friends, clubs.
"Of course, the presence of the president supporting us from the stands is a bonus. We will try to represent our country in the best possible way."
19:13 , Alex Young
Anthony Jelonch feared his Rugby World Cup dream was over when rupturing knee ligaments in February – now the No 8 will captain France tonight.
The Toulouse back-rower suffered a torn ACL in France’s 32-21 Six Nations win over Scotland in Paris in February.
Jelonch went under the knife in March, and just six months later will lead Les Bleus in their second Pool A clash with Uruguay.
“I had my doubts at the start of my rehab, but I knew I had six months,” said Jelonch. “I worked very hard in those six months and gave myself the chance to come back.
“To return as captain is a huge source of pride and I’ll do everything I can to lead my team-mates to victory. I had my operation six months ago. My knee is holding up well and I’ve got the green light from the surgeons and physiotherapists.
“I’ve been preparing for a few weeks now. Fabien said to me ‘you choose the match you want to play’. I felt ready and he told me I could play this week. I’m just looking forward to kick-off now.”
18:55 , Alex Young
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
18:41 , Alex Young
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
18:28 , Alex Young
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'
18:16 , Alex Young
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."
18:04 , Alex Young
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
17:55 , Alex Young
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
17:46 , Alex Young
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
17:38 , Alex Young
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.
17:33 , Alex Young
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.