Fearless Azzurri promise to test backbone of Les Bleus
Saturday 02 February 2013
France might go into the Six Nations as joint favourites with England but they will tread warily on to the Stadio Olimpico pitch for their opener tomorrow. The last time they played in Rome – at the Stadio Flaminio two years ago – Les Bleus suffered their first ever defeat against the rugby-playing Azzurri of Italy.
"France are a great team, but there's no doubt about the fact they have respect for us," Italy's captain, the Stade Français No 8 Sergio Parisse, said. "In 2011 we beat them at Flaminio. We all know their individual qualities, but we'll be going into this match with no fear, as we do every time."
France will have the considerable quality of Thierry Dusautoir at openside flanker. The former France captain and 2011 World Player of the Year was rested for the tour of Argentina in June and missed the autumn Tests because of a knee injury.
Lock Pascal Papé retains the captain's armband, while Maxime Machenaud's fine performances in France's three November wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa have earned him another start at scrum-half, alongside Frédéric Michalak. "The backbone of the team is the one that started the November Tests," coach Philippe Saint-André said.
Dusautoir was not guaranteed a place in the starting line-up when he was called up to the initial 33-man squad but his work ethic has secured a spot.
"When we drew the 33-man list, Thierry Dusautoir was not playing with Toulouse so we had to wait until his last two European Cup and Top 14 games to assess his form," Saint-André said. "We saw during his preparation that he had worked a lot while he was injured. In Italy we will need to defend a lot, so we will need his experience and his ferocity."
As for the co-favourite tag going into the championship, Saint-André insisted that complacency would not be an undermining factor in his team's challenge.
"France were the favourites against Italy two years ago," the former Sale and Gloucester coach said. "It was a tsunami. We will have to be focused on this game now. We have won four matches in a row; let's make it five."
Saint-André insisted that France's priority was simply to get off to a good start in their opening two matches. "We are going to divide it into two blocks: win in Italy and then the home game against Wales," he said. "Then we'll think about the rest afterwards."
Tony Bellew vs Nathan Cleverly 2 report: Bellew takes his revenge with points win over Cleverly
F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2014 live: Lewis Hamilton heads towards second championship as Nico Rosberg has major engine troubles
England vs Samoa match report: England finally end losing streak as Jonny May stars in win ahead of Wallabies showdown
Arsenal vs Manchester United report: Wayne Rooney and a Kieran Gibbs own goal make Gunners rue missed chances
Arsenal vs Manchester United player ratings: Who was the star man? Wayne Rooney or David De Gea?
- 2 Tower Bridge glass walkway 'smashed' by night-time visitor dropping bottle of beer
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'