France five-eighth Remy Marginet described the prospect of playing against Australian captain Cameron Smith and fullback Billy Slater in Friday night’s Rugby League World Cup match at Canberra Stadium as “like playing Messi and Ronaldo”.
And considering the size of their trophy cabinets, it’s easy to see why the Melbourne Storm duo drew such a comparison from the French playmaker – despite never meeting them on a football field.
None of the 24 players in the French side have ever played against Australia before, but they will get their chance on Friday night to test themselves against some of the best in the world.
Highlighting Smith’s standing in the game is the fact the historian will yet again have to adjust the record books as he continues to break records with a similar frequency that Messi scores goals.
Smith will run out onto Canberra Stadium for what will be his 36th consecutive Test match, surpassing the record held by rugby league Immortal Clive Churchill.
The record will be another in the 34-year-olds continually growing collection, but his primary focus will be ensuring his team isn’t caught off guard by the talented French outfit.
France were in contention for most of their match against Lebanon last week, but two tries in the final four minutes saw the game slip through the Frenchmen’s fingers.
But the green and gold jerseys standing in their way showed their class against England in round one, beating the English side 18-4 in a tight but convincing display.
“It will not be like playing the Australians like any other team,” Marginet told ffr13.fr
“[We have to] slow down the pace of the game, and at the same time get the ball out as quickly as possible.”
Hooker Eloi Pelissier added: “If we do not defend against Australia we will take 80 [points]”.
Australia will field four debutants in the team, including winger Tom Trbojevic and prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard who will both start the match, while Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi will make their debuts off the bench.
France coach, Aurelien Cologni, will remain with the same team from round one with the only changes being captain Theo Fages shifting into halfback and Marginet playing five-eighth, while Olivier Arnaud replaces Damien Cardace in the centres.
Australia come into the match with six positional changes in total and will be looking for their debutants to get involved and make the most of their opportunity.
Australian coach, Mal Meninga, has been watching debutant Tom Trbojevic develop since making his NRL debut in 2015.
And the former Australian captain is expecting Trbojevic to cause a lot of headaches for the French side.
“He’s a great athlete with great footy sense,” Meninga said.
“He obviously grew up with rugby league and he plays that backyard-style rugby league. He’s got great skill and vision and is a big unit. He’s a danger every time he touches the football.
“He will be a leader at any club he plays for and certainly a leader at this level. He’s certainly a superstar of the making.”
Australia plays France at 8PM AEDT Friday 3rd November at Canberra Stadium, Canberra.
Australia vs Lebanon
Canberra Stadium, Canberra 8PM (AEST) Friday