France held off a second-half comeback by Argentina to win a gripping World Cup match in Tokyo.
The Pumas overturned a 20 – 3 half-time deficit to take a 21-20 lead until Camille Lopez’s drop-goal put France ahead again in the Pool C encounter.
Tries from Gael Fickou and Antoine Dupont gave France the advantage.
Guido Petti and Julian Montoya crossed for the Pumas and Benjamin Urdapilleta’s penalty put them ahead before replacement Lopez struck.
The Pumas, who had lost their previous nine internationals, had another the chance to win it late on, but Emiliano Boffelli’s long-range penalty drifted just wide.
England start their Pool C campaign on Sunday against Tonga, who are Argentina’s next opponents on Saturday, 28 September. France resume when they take on the United States on Wednesday, 2 October.
France looked close to their best in the first half, and there was no indication of the drama to come after the resumption.
Romain Ntamack was assured at fly-half, and winger Damien Penaud went past his opponent seven times – more than any other player – in the first 40 minutes.
But Petti’s try early in the second half rattled the French before Montoya’s close-range effort and an Urdapilleta penalty reduced their lead to just two points.
However, they gathered themselves after Urdapilleta’s second penalty put Argentina one point ahead, a lead that only lasted around a minute before Lopez’s left-footed drop-goal.
The second half dip will alarm coach Jacques Brunel, but he can take heart that his team had enough to prevent what would have been the biggest second-half comeback in Rugby World Cup history.