France v Italy - teams and prediction
WORLD CUP, ROUND FIVE: France coach Fabien Galthie has warned his team not to underestimate a “wounded” Italy ahead of their decisive World Cup Pool A match on Friday.
Pool A has reached a critical stage with the last round of matches in which all four teams playing this week – New Zealand tackle Uruguay on Thursday – can still reach the knock-out stages.
After three wins from three against the All Blacks, Uruguay and Namibia, France return from a two-week break knowing that they must still avoid defeat to the Azzurri to reach the knock-out stages.
Galthie believes Italy will pose an even bigger threat than they did back in February during a razor-tight Six Nations clash in Rome, despite their horror show last week in a 14-try demolition by New Zealand.
“They are Latins who we know well. We’ve played them five times in four years,” said Galthie.
“They are a wounded team. It’s not far off the toughest challenge we’ve had to come up against.
“They’ve made changes and they’re playing a match where they’ve got everything to gain.”
Crowley looking for ‘respectability’
Italy had earned a lot of plaudits over the last couple of years under the tutelage of New Zealander Kieran Crowley.
In that time they won away to Wales for the first time and also gained a first victory over Australia.
Crowley’s win percentage coming into the World Cup was the best of any Italy coach since Pierre Berbizier from 2005-07.
In 2022, with that win away to Wales, Crowley ended Italy’s seven-year wait for a Six Nations victory.
But after starting their World Cup campaign with bonus point victories over Namibia and Uruguay, everything unravelled against the All Blacks in a humiliating 96-17 reverse, which Crowley admitted was a worry.
“Yeah, it was very concerning the way it went,” said Crowley.
“But we’ve moved on and now we’re looking forward to a chance this week to at least put in a performance that has a little bit more respectability.”
One of the main areas Italy would be looking to improve on is their defence of set-plays, which broke down alarmingly against New Zealand.
“We gave up 10 tries from set-plays. It’s something that had never happened before,” Crowley complained.
“We talked about it a little bit but then we moved on. When your confidence is knocked, how do you regain it? Well, you regain it by getting back to the process and having self belief.”
Crowley has been forced by injuries to replace his entire front row amongst five changes for the France match.
“We had a lot of players beaten up last week and we had a number of players who didn’t train very much this week,” he said.
France seek ‘perfect discipline’
France, for their part, are without captain and talisman Antoine Dupont, who remains sidelined after fracturing his cheekbone in the 96-0 demolition of Namibia two weeks ago.
He has been replaced by Maxime Lucu, who will team up with his club teammate Matthieu Jalibert in a familiar halfback pairing.
Lucu says New Zealand’s performance against Italy is one Les Bleus should aim to replicate.
“The All Blacks’ performance, in the first 20 minutes in particular, is an example to follow: four line-outs, score four times,” he said.
“Their discipline was perfect. New Zealand played a really classy match. We have to learn from them, be pragmatic and rigorous.”
France have not lost to Italy since 2013 and the Azzurri have only beaten their neighbours three times in 47 Tests.
Player to watch:
For France: With injured captain Antoine Dupont on the sidelines, all eyes will be on scrumhalf Maxime Lucu. The No.9 has big boots to fill, but it is a chance to show his class. Lucu partners with Matthieu Jalibert at halfback for the first time since their two-test tour of Japan in July 2022. Damian Penaud is lethal on attack, he has scored the most tries of any player in 2023 so far with 12 and would be out to add to the tally. Charles Ollivon will captain the team from the start for the first time since November 2022 against Japan in Toulouse, and the 14th time in his career.
For Italy: An exciting backline takes to the field against France. Tommaso Allan moves back to flyhalf after starting at fullback last week. Allan has been solid from the tee, he has not missed a shot at goal at World Cup 2023, kicking all 15 attempts. The electric Ange Capuozzo moves to fullback after playing three of his past four tests on the right wing, while Paolo Garbisi returns to inside centre after wearing the number 10 jersey against the All Blacks. In the pack, lock Federico Ruzza can be a monster in defence, he did not miss a tackle against France in February, completing all 13 attempts and winning one turnover in contact.
Key RWC info:
- Having played each other on 47 previous occasions, this will be only the second time France and Italy have met at a World Cup.
- Both teams remain unmoved on the World Rugby rankings with France in second and Italy in 11th.
- France are currently enjoying a 13-game winning streak against Italy dating back to 2014.
- This is their longest run of victories in this fixture since winning 18 straight tests between 1937 and 1995.
@rugby365com: France by 30 points.
France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Lucu, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Anthony Jelonch, 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Pierre Bourgarit, 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Francois Cros, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Yoram Moefana, 23 Melvyn Jaminet.
Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Paolo Garbisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Simone Ferrari.
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 David Sisi, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Alessandro Fusco, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Lorenzo Pani.
Date: Friday, October 6
Venue: OL Stadium, Lyon
Kick-off: 21.00 (19.00 GMT; 21.00 CEST)
Expected weather: It will be sunny with a high of 24°C.
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Additional reporting: AFP