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France v Italy - teams and prediction

ROUND THREE PREVIEW: Out of form France welcomes Italy in Lille in the Six Nations on Sunday with the hangover of the opening defeat to Ireland and October’s World Cup quarterfinal loss to South Africa still lingering.


Fabien Galthie’s Les Bleus have edged past Scotland since the humbling to Ireland earlier this month but the head coach and his side remain in the spotlight of criticism from fans, former players and the French media.

The absence of captain and poster boy Antoine Dupont, playing sevens in Canada this weekend before the Paris Olympic Games, as well as injuries to first-choice flyhalf Romain Ntamack, lock Thibaud Flament and flank Anthony Jelonch have only increased those voices.

Galthie, who took over in 2019 after years of under-achievement, has made just two changes to face the Azzurri.

He has decided against altering his stuttering Maxime Lucu and Matthieu Jalibert at scrumhalf and flyhalf against the Italians, who have only beaten France twice this century.

“We hear and read a lot about the performances of our players, the comments saying we should change the team,” 54-year-old Galthie told reporters.

“When we decide a team lineup, we ask ourselves lot of questions.


“What is important with us as a group is trust, and the values of the human being,” the former France captain added.

Giant teenage lock Posolo Tuilagi, the son of former Samoa Henry, makes his first start as flank Paul Boudehent comes in for injured skipper Gregory Alldritt.

Francois Cros shifts across to No 8 with flank Charles Ollivon captaining the side as he did during Galthie’s two opening Six Nations campaigns.

Galthie continues to go against the selection habit of his predecessors like Jacques Brunel, Guy Noves and Philippe Saint-Andre of shuffling their cards on a weekly basis.


“You can have a look at considering a massive turnover of players but we’re convinced that it doesn’t work, not with this team,” Galthie said.

“We’re convinced, what we’re experiencing now will make us stronger.

“We’re in a period of resilience, transition, but we believe strongly that we’ll win again and we’ll back at our best,” he added.

Top 14 touch

Coaching opposite Galthie in Lille, with France’s usual Stade de France home under renovation for the Olympics, will be  former Argentina flyhalf Gonzalo Quesada.

Quesada, 49, took over after the World Cup having had spells as a player and a coach with Stade Francais, Racing 92, Beziers, Toulon and Narbonne as well as a stint in Les Bleus’ set-up between 2008-2011.

“Going against France for me is always special,” Quesada told reporters.

“I spent 24 years of my professional life in France, it was the French national team that gave me my chance as a coach,” he added.

Quesada has made six changes from the 0-36 thumping by Ireland two weeks ago with five members of his backline including Toulouse’s fleet-footed fullback Ange Capuozzo based in the Top 14.

Italy is eyeing just their second Six Nations victory since 2015, and a maiden win in the tournament on French soil.

“We made the decision to start all the players who play in France and are available,” Quesada said.

“They’re used to playing against French players and it’s not just a detail.

“France is a team that are very dear to me, that’s why it’s important that we show what we’re really about,” he added.

Four of France’s last six home wins against Italy have come by a margin of 11 to 20 points and that looks like the margin to focus on again.

Players to watch

For France: François Cros is something of an unsung hero in the French pack, a relentless workhorse who does a bit of everything. With Alldritt missing, he may be required to carry more than in previous games, although the decision to start Tuilagi may lessen that load slightly. Damian Penaud scored his 36th Test try against Ireland and is just two short of Serge Blanco’s all-time France record. He has scored four tries in five Tests against Italy.

For Italy: Ross Vintcent’s path to the top has gone very quickly, but it should come as little surprise given his performances for Exeter Chiefs this season. Still only 21, he will have a big role to play, particularly as a carrier with Lorenzo Cannone still out. Tommaso Menoncello returns to the wing for this encounter. He scored on his debut as a teenager against France in Italy’s last away meeting with Les Bleus and could be a handy option to do so again this Sunday.

Head to Head


@rugby365: France by 15 points


France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Lucu; 8 François Cros, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Paul Boudehent, 5 Posolo Tuilagi, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Esteban Abadie, 22 Nolann Le Garrec, 23 Yoram Moefana

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Tommaso Menoncello, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Federico Mori, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Martin Page-Relo; 8 Ross Vintcent, 7 Michele Lamaro (c), 6 Riccardo Favretto, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Matteo Canali, 20 Andrea Zambonin, 21 Manuel Zuliani, 22 Stephen Varney, 23 Leonardo Marin

Date: Sunday, February 25
Venue: Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille
Kick-off: 16.00 (15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Cloudy with afternoon showers with an expected high of 9°C
Referee: Christophe Ridley (England)
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley (England) & Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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