France v Italy - Teams and Predictions
NATIONS CUP, ROUND THREE: Italy will be out to cause an upset when they face France in Round three of the Nations Cup on Saturday.
Italy are currently third in Group B following their 28-17 defeat to Scotland on the opening weekend but victory over Les Bleus could see them leapfrog their hosts.
France have been impressive recently and will hope to secure a spot in next weekend’s final.
While the importance of the match can not be underestimated, however stealing most of the headlines is referee Nigel Owens, who will be overseeing his 100th international this weekend when France take on Italy.
To commemorate his landmark achievement within the international rugby, Owens received a very special whistle for the encounter.
Balance for Italy
Volunteer ambulance driver Maxime Mbanda was among four changes in Italy’s side to head to France in the Nations Cup this weekend, head coach Franco Smith revealed.
Flank Mbanda, who received one of his country’s highest awards for his efforts during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, comes into a re-organised back-row with Jake Polledri injured and Sebastian Negri out with a thigh problem.
“He’s a top man, he’s an excellent example for all of us, he sacrificed a lot of time. He’s really putting the team first like he put other people first. That’s the way he plays, he puts his body on the line, he’s prepared to do the hard work,” Smith said.
“He’s bringing a different balance to our game, a little bit more towards the ball which is necessary,” he added.
South African-born Johan Meyer is given the openside flank shirt as Braam Steyn moves across to No.8 for Saturday’s trip to the Stade de France.
Treviso’s Luca Sperandio replaces Mattia Bellini on the leftwing while uncapped lock Cristian Stoian and back-rower Michele Lamaro are named on the bench.
✝️R.I.P. @WorldRugby mourns ‘genius’ Dominici
🗣️He will live long in the hearts of rugby fans around the world
🗣️Rest In Peace, Christophe Dominici Blue heart 😢#Rugby
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) November 25, 2020
Christophe Dominici factor
Les Bleus were forced to name 11 uncapped players in their matchday squad after an agreement between the French Rugby Federation and the Top 14 league as they look to book a place in next weekend’s final.
Former Springboks fly-half Smith still expects a good performance from the hosts four days after former France wing Christophe Dominici was found dead aged just 48.
“I know France have such a deep pool of players, such a competitive competition in the Top 14, the players are well coached, the standard of play they are involved in each week is really high,” he said.
“There’s no difference between the two, they’re spoilt for choice.
“With Christophe Dominici’s sad news this week it’s going to serve as extra motivation so we expect the real France out there,” he added.
Players to watch:
For France: The only two survivors from last Sunday’s win at Scotland are wing Teddy Thomas and flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert. The pair will have to steady the ship. Test debuts for centre Jean-Pascal Barraque, wing Gabin Villiere, locks Killian Geraci and Baptiste Pesenti as well as prop Rodrigue Neti.
For Italy: The Azzurri are without Jake Polledri and Sebastian Negri for the trip to Stade de France, with Maxime Mbanda and Johan Meyer coming into the back row in their stead. The pair are joined by Braam Steyn in the promising loose trio combinations. The return of Luca Sperandio to the wing in place of Mattia Bellini is anotger player who can be dangerous.
Head to head:
France’s Anthony Jelonch, Sekou Macalou and Cameron Woki will have their work cut out for them as they try to nullify the impact of Italy’s loose trio – Braam Steyn, Johan Meyer and Maxime Mbanda. The halfback pair of France Matthieu Jalibert and Baptiste Serin poses a major threat to Italy’s Paolo Garbisi and Marcello Violi.
@rugby365com: France to win by 7 points
France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Anthony Jelonch, 7 Sekou Macalou, 6 Cameron Woki, 5 Baptiste Pesenti, 4 Killian Geraci, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Rodrigue Neti
Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolignar, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Cyril Cazeaux, 20 Swan Rebbadj, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Louis Carbonel, 23 Yoram Moefana
Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi; 14 Jacopo Trulla, 13 Marco Zanon, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Luca Sperandio; 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Marcello Violi; 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbanda, 5 Niccolo Cannone, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Giosue Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi (captain), 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Simone Ferrari, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Cristian Stoian, 20 Michele Lamaro, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Tommaso Allan, 23 Federico Mori
Date: Saturday, November 28
Venue: Stade de France, France
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Sunny and cold with high of 12°C and a low of 1°C.
Referee: Nigel Owens
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley, Mike Adamson
TMO: Sam Grove-White