France vs Italy preview and team news

France begin their Six Nations campaign against Italy on Saturday and Les Bleus will be hoping to avoid another shock defeat to the European rugby minnows.

Italy have struggled to make an impact in the Six Nations since they joined in 2000, but the Azzurri created one of the biggest shocks in the tournaments history by beating France 22-21 last year.

Mirco Bergamasco was the star for Italy, as he totalled 17 points and kicked two late penalties. The victory was Italy’s only win in the 2011 Six Nations, however.

France are coming out of a strange World Cup campaign, where Les Bleus struggled to perform but reached the final, which they almost won. The French narrowly lost 8-7 to New Zealand in the final and will be the favourites to regain their Six Nations crown.

Les Bleus are known for their unpredictability, however, as their loss to Tonga at the World Cup showed.

Italy will be hoping to build on their victory over France last year and avoid the wooden spoon.

France name three players in their starting line-up who did not make their World Cup squad in Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu and Vincent Debaty. All three play for Clermont Auvergne, who are second in the French league.

Fofana makes his debut and replaces Maxime Mermoz at centre, while Malzieu comes in for Alexis Palisson and Debaty takes Jean-Baptiste Poux’s position at prop.

Airona winger Giovanbattista Venditti and Treviso’s Kris Burton are the only Italy players to make the starting line-up for Saturday’s match after not making the World Cup squad.


France: Maxime Medard, Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu, Francois Trinh-Duc, Dimitri Yachvili; Louis Picamoles, Julien Bonnaire, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Lionel Nallet, Pascal Pape, Nicolas Mas, William Servat, Vincent Debaty. Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Jean-Baptiste Poux, Yoann Maestri, Imanol Harinordoquy, Morgan Parra, Lionel Beauxis, Maxime Mermoz.

Italy: Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista Venditti, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Luke McLean, Kris Burton, Edoardo Gori; Sergio Parisse (captain), Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zanni, Quintin Geldenhuys, Cornelius Van Zyl, Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero. Replacements: Tommaso D’Apice, Lorenzo Cittadini, Marco Bortolami, Simone Favaro, Fabio Semenzato, Tobias Botes, Gonzalo Canale.


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