France must maintain their impressive record in Rome this afternoon to have any chance of retaining their Six Nations title.
Only a hefty victory against Italy will keep the holders in contention following their defeat at Twickenham, but history is on France's side as Italy have conceded an average of 45 points against today's opponents in Rome since 2000.
Marc Lièvremont, France's embattled coach, knows victory is vital. "We want to recover as soon as possible from the loss to England and put it behind us," he said. "Even so, first we have to think about winning. They [Italy] are a bunch of gritty players, but they have some talented players and that is why we are wary."
Lièvremont made three changes to his side, including bringing back prop Sylvain Marconnet and recalling Maxime Médard at full-back. But one change many expected did not happen, when Lièvremont kept Sébastien Chabal at No 8 ahead of Imanol Harinordoquy.
Lièvremont was savaged by the French media after his changes for the England game backfired – notably selecting Chabal, who starts again alongside the captain, Thierry Dusautoir, and Julien Bonnaire in the back row.
"It was a strategic choice by Marc and the coaches," Dusautoir said. "We worked all this week with this back row and it was the same that played against Argentina in the autumn."
Italy: A Masi; T Benvenuti, G Canale, G Garcia, M Bergamasco; L Orquera, F Semenzato; A lo Cicero, C Festuccia, M Castrogiovanni, S Dellape, C del Fava, A Zanni, R Barbieri, S Parisse (capt). Replacements L Ghiraldini, S Perugini, Q Geldenhuys, P Derbyshire, P Canavosio, K Burton, L McLean.
France: M Médard; Y Huget, A Rougerie, Y Jauzion, V Clerc; F Trinh-Duc, M Parra; S Marconnet, W Servat, N Mas, J Pierre, L Nallet, T Dusautoir (capt), J Bonnaire, S Chabal. Replacements G Guirado, L Ducalcon, J Thion, I Harinordoquy, J Thomas, D Traille, C Poitrenaud.
TV: BBC 1, 2.30pm. Referee B Lawrence (NZ).Reuse content