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France v Australia preview: Wallabies complete World Cup prep in Paris

Australia are desperately in need of a boost ahead of the Rugby World Cup, but a meeting with hosts France at the Stade de France looks like a massive hurdle to overcome.

The Wallabies have lost all four internationals they have played in 2023, with the return of Eddie Jones as head coach having so far failed to spark any sort of revival.

The Rugby World Cup is a matter of weeks away and Jones will be hoping to see his side impress in their final warm-up fixture, against tournament hosts France in the early hours of Monday morning.

WhatFrance v Australia
WhereStade de France, Paris
When01:45 (AEST), Monday 28th August 2023
How to watchStan Sport & Channel 9
OddsFrance 1.16, Tie 34.00, Australia 5.00

Les Bleus hurt by Ntamack injury

France had been vying for favouritism to win the World Cup with holders New Zealand, however, the loss of fly-half Romain Ntamack to a serious knee injury has seen them drift a little to 4.00, with the All Blacks 3.50.

Ntamack had formed a devastating half-back paring with Antoine Dupont which drove Les Bleus to a Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year.

The 24-year-old was forced from the field during a 30-27 warm-up win over Scotland in Saint Etienne just under a fortnight ago, with France recovering to see off Fiji 34-17 in their first game without Ntamack.

The clash with Fiji saw coach Fabien Galthie use a second-string line-up, but the Wallabies are likely to face a much stronger XV in the Paris showdown.

France will also be without loose-head prop Cyril Baille after he suffered a calf injury against Scotland and he faces a race to be fit for the start of the upcoming World Cup.

Meanwhile, Matthieu Jalibert and Antonie Hastoy are the two outside-halves hoping to step in for the stricken Ntamack.

Hansen helping out Jones

With things not going the way he would have wanted, Wallabies coach Jones has called on a vastly experienced friend to help out in the build-up to the meeting with the World Cup hosts.

Former New Zealand boss Steve Hansen will be adding his views ahead of the Paris clash, with Jones telling reporters: "It's like a mate coming in and having a beer (and asking him) 'what do you think, where can we improve?'.

"We have brought in Steve to have a look at what we are doing."

Hansen's input will surely be welcome as the Wallabies seek to end a losing run which saw them beaten in all of their Rugby Championship outings, before being edged out 23-20 by New Zealand in Dunedin last time out.

That latest showing was a major improvement on previous efforts, with the Wallabies beaten by a last-minute Richie Mo’unga penalty after holding a 14-point half-time lead over the All Blacks.

Bullish Foketi set to feature

Lalakai Foketi is set to start at inside centre against Les Bleus with Samu Kerevi nursing a hand injury, while it's strongly suspected that Ben Donaldson will make his first appearance of the year at fullback.

And Foketi insists Australia are improving as the World Cup hones into view, despite the Wallabies still being listed at 11.00 to add a third success to the ones they enjoyed in 1991 and 1999.

He told reporters ahead of the clash with France: "We didn't come here just to take part. We know we're heading in the right direction and everyone's going to see that in the World Cup.

"We're putting good performances in in the first half, especially the last game in Dunedin, and so I think we're trending in the right direction."

Close encounter to be expected

The last time these two teams met was in an Autumn international in November last year, when France edged a 30-29 victory in Paris.

That was the latest of a series of very tight contests between Australia and France, with none of their last six showdowns having been decided by a margin of more than three points.

Those six results have seen three wins for each side and the Wallabies are 8.50 to win by 1-5 points this time around and 1.66 to win either half of the match at the Stade de France.

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