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5:30am Tue October 18, 2022
Pool Matches - Week 1 - Eco-Power Stadium, Doncaster - Crowd: 4182

Pool Matches - Week 1: France v Greece preview

Former finalists face first-timers

The opening round of the Rugby League World Cup will see France take on Greece in a Pool A match expected to defy expectations in Doncaster.

Going from a rugby league force to a minnow nation on the international stage, France will be hoping for a much-improved effort after failing to register a win at the last World Cup.

Defeating Wales (34-10) in a mid-season fixture featuring 15 players contracted to Super League clubs Catalans and Toulouse, coach Laurent Frayssinous has persevered on the selection front with the bulk of the squad contracted to either French club.

The Chanticleers suffered a convincing defeat at the hands of Tonga (48-12) in a warm-up match last week in Halifax. 

Holding a dismal record in recent World Cups with two wins from 10 matches dating back to 2008, France have produced their best performances in the opening match of each tournament with wins over Scotland (36-18) in 2008 and Papua New Guinea (9-8) in 2013, along with a narrow loss to Lebanon (18-29) in 2017.

Reaching the World Cup for the first time in 2022, Greece will be aiming to impress after making steady strides against emerging nations over the past two decades.

Coming into their World Cup debut following a warm-up draw with Bradford (34-34) last week, coach Steve Georgallis has leant heavily on a trio of players with NRL experience - Lachlan Ilias, Peter Mamouzelos and Billy Magoulias - along with captain Jordan Meads, who won the Jack Gibson Medal for his efforts with the New Zealand Warriors Under 20s team in 2011.

While Greece have been given little hope of progressing beyond the group stage of the World Cup, a win over the established French side would be a major achievement in growing the sport domestically.

Last meeting: these nations are meeting for the first time in an international.

Who to watch: Set to make his first international appearance with France after qualifying under the residency rules, Samisoni Langi will be determined to make the most of his second coming on the international stage. Emerging as a bright prospect with Tonga at the last World Cup held in the northern hemisphere, the former Sydney Roosters player moved to the UK to secure regular game time with Leigh Centurions before finding a home with the Catalans Dragons. Playing predominantly in the centres, while boasting the versatility to move into the halves as required, Langi's skillset will be invaluable if the French are to deliver on expectations.

Gaining an opportunity to show his wares on the international stage, Peter Mamouzelos will be out to show he deserves to play first grade on a regular basis. Limited to two appearances with the Rabbitohs this season due to the presence of Damien Cook and Siliva Havili, the 21-year-old has scored 10 tries in seven tests for Greece previously during his teenage years. Regarded as a player of immense promise, a starring performance from Mamouzelos could be the impetus for the Titans to pull off a stunning first-up result.

The favourite: Set to benefit from club combinations, particularly in the forward pack, France are expected to emerge victorious in their first match of the tournament. 

My tip: Given little hope of causing an upset in their maiden World Cup appearance, Greece may prove to be the surprise packets of the tournament - much like the United States a decade ago. Greece by 6.