Six Nations preview: Italy v France

A look ahead to Sunday's Six Nations clash between Wales and Ireland

On Sunday afternoon a wounded French outfit travel to the Stadio Olimpico to take on Italy in what promises to be a ferociously physical contest.

Narrow defeats at the hands of Ireland and Wales put an end to Les Blues' title aspirations, but they will be determined to finish with a flourish and pick up their first win on Italian soil since 2009.

France coach Philippe Saint Andre has overhauled his side, making eight changes to the starting line up, in an attempt to galvanise his faltering French players.

Sebastian Tillous-Borde takes over from the injured Morgan Parra at scrum half and Scott Spedding returns at full back, at the expense of Brice Dulin, who drops out of the match-day squad.

Noa Nakaitaci replaces Sofiane Guitoune, who misses out with a hamstring injury, while Maxime Mermoz and Gael Fickou come in to form a new midfield partnership, as Remi Lamerat and Wesley Fofana are also injured.

 

In the pack, Rabah Silmani, Romain Taofifénua and Damien Chouly  drop to the bench to make way for Nicolas Mas, Alexandre Flanquart and Loann Goujon.

La Rochelle's Goujon is set to make his first start for France at no 8 and veteran prop Nicholas Mas will make his first appearance in this year's tournament. Uini Atonio has been dropped from the squad.

France have been immensely physical throughout the Six Nations but lacked imagination and creativity, however, their monstrous pack faces a tough test in Rome, where they will go toe to toe with the combative Azzurri forwards that will be invigorated but their dominant display against Scotland.   

Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made three changes to the team that bullied Scotland into submission at Murrayfield.  

Samuela Vunisa replaces Simone Favaro in the back row. In the backs, Andrea Masi returns to inside centre as Enrico Bacchin drops to the bench and Leonardo Sarto starts on the wing ahead of Michele Visentin.  

KICK-OFF: Sunday 15.00

PAST THREE MEETINGS...

France 30 Italy 10, Six Nations, February 2014

Italy 23 France 18, Six Nations, February 2013

France 30 Italy 12, Six Nations, February 2012 

STATS…

France have conceded the most turnovers in this season's tournament (48).

Italy have only beaten France twice in the Six Nations, those victories have come in their last two home games against Les Blues.

Italy have scored three times as many tries as France in this year's tournament.

Under Saint Andre's leadership, France have never beaten Italy in Rome.

ODDS…

Italy to win: 3.5

France to win: 1.33

Draw: 17.0

TV: Live on BBC 1 at 15.00

Teams:

France: Scott Spedding, Yoann Huget, Gael Fickou, Maxime Mermoz, Noa Nakaitaci, Camille Lopez, Sebastian Tillous-Borde, Loann Goujon, Bernard le Roux, Thierry Dusautoir (capt) Yoann Maestri, Alexandre Flanquart, Nicolas Mas, Guilhem Guirado, Eddy Ben Arous

Replacements: Benjamin Kayser, Rabah Slimani, Vincent Debaty, Romain Taofifenua, Damien Chouly, Rory Kockott, Jules Plisson, Mathieu Bastareaud

Italy: Luke McLean, Leonardo Sarto, Luca Morisi, Andrea Masi, Giovambattista Venditti, Kelly Haimona, Edoardo Gori; Matias Aguero, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Dario Chistolini, George Fabio Biagi, Joshua Furno, Francesco Minto, Samuela Vunisa, Sergio Parisse,

Replacements: Andrea Manici, Alberto De Marchi, Lorenzo Cittadini, Marco Barbini, Guglielmo Palazzini, Tommaso Allan, Enrico Bacchin.

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