France’s cornerstone prop Nicolas Mas expects a “complicated” scrummaging battle with Italy in Sunday’s Six Nations match in Paris.
The robust Montpellier front-rower caused problems for England last week as France edged to a 26-24 home victory. The 33-year-old will start against Italy this weekend in a side showing just three changes.
Dimitri Szarzewski starts at hooker, while Hugo Bonneval will make his debut in place of Maxime Médard on the wing. Yoann Maestri starts alongside captain Pascal Papé at lock. François Trinh-Duc, initially omitted from coach Philippe Saint-André’s squad altogether but back in because of injuries, takes a seat on the bench, with Antoine Burban ruled out.
Italy have never won in Paris, but have seen off the French twice in succession in Rome. And Mas has challenged his team-mates to avenge last season’s 23-18 defeat by Jacques Brunel’s men.
“The scrum is one area where they come together extremely well,” Mas said. “They have a pack that knows their roles perfectly. And they are very good players, including [Martin] Castrogiovanni and [Leonardo] Ghiraldini.
“They must work this area a lot, they love it, they excel in this, and their coach likes it too. I have bad memories from last year, of course; it was bad. I had not been sparkling.”
Italy gave Wales a fright before the hosts ground home 23-15 last weekend and Mas believes that performance serves to underline the battle facing the French.
“Against the Italians it is always complicated,” he said. “It would be pretentious to fall into the trap, to get ahead of ourselves. We must remain humble: we only imposed ourselves with three minutes to go against England.”