Preview: France v Italy
WORLD CUP WARM-UP: France are expecting a very difficult challenge when they meet Italy in France on Friday.
Jacques Brunel has made nine personnel changes in total from the team that went narrowly to Scotland in Edinburgh, with Jefferson Poirot reclaiming the captaincy.
Conor O’Shea has made three changes to his Italy team for their penultimate World Cup warm-up clash against France on Friday.
The outing is France’s final warm-up Test ahead of the World Cup which means that this is the last opportunity for Les Bleus to fine-tune their the squad.
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Head coach Brunel said: “I do not expect a big win.
“The past has shown in taking the last seven or eight games, there have never been big gaps. So I do not expect the match to be easy. I especially expect a strong commitment and I hope that the bases on which we worked in defence will be at the same level and I think we should be more specific in what we are doing and erase the slags we saw in Edinburgh,”
Brunel is set to announce his final squad of 31 next Monday, with France then set to fly out to Japan where they are in a group with England, Argentina, Tonga and the USA.
For Italy, it is a completely revamped back five in the pack as Arthur Iturria shifts to the second row alongside Romain Taofifenua, while Wenceslas Lauret, Yacouba Camara and Louis Picamoles all get their first starts of the summer in the back row.
Wesley Fofana, a late withdrawal in Scotland, returns to the centres alongside Sofiane Guitoune, the man who replaced him, which means that Gaël Fickou shifts to the wing.
The rest of the back three is made up by Toulouse duo Maxime Médard at full-back and Yoann Huget on the wing, the latter involved for the first time in the warm-up series.
O’Shea has opted for an identical backline and back row as a result.
Upfront however, props Simone Ferrari and Marco Riccioni are handed the start this time while veteran Alessandro Zanni comes into the second row.
In what is starting to look like O’Shea’s first-choice backline, Jayden Hayward remains at full-back with Matteo Minozzi and Mattia Bellini on the wings.
Michele Campagnaro and Luca Morisi team up in midfield while Tito Tebaldi and Tommaso Allan continue their Guinness Six Nations half-back partnership.
Sergio Parisse captains Italy again from No.8 with Braam Steyn and Jake Polledri alongside him in the back row.
Italy will be out for revenge against a France side who beat them in Rome in the final game of the 2019 Championship.
O’Shea said: “We want to continue from where we left off.
“The victory against Russia gave us some good points but it is in the past now. Our next objective is France.
“It will be a tough match and very interesting for a number of reasons. We want to show our true worth trying to take home a positive result to get ever closer to peak form with regards to the Rugby World Cup.”
Testa al terzo Test Match in preparazione al Mondiale 💪
Grazie alla macchina da mischia singola #RhinoRugby, piloni e tallonatori hanno lavorato sulle rispettive potenzialità e agito sulle proprie criticità…
— Italrugby (@Federugby) August 29, 2019
Players to watch:
For France: Toulouse halfback pair Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack will be a pair to behold. The duo, who started together in three matches during the 2019 Six Nations, will be a handful for the Italians.
For Italy: Like usual, captain Sergio Parisse is always one to keep an eye on. The stalwart’s leadership is vital. South African-born flank Abraham Steyn is another loose forward that can cause heaps up trouble at the breakdown.
Head to head: One battle that will certainly be very intriguing is at No.8. Veteran versus veteran, France Louis Picamoles versus Sergio Parisse. Both are highly competitive
2019: France won 25-14, Rome
2018: France won 34-17, Marseille
2017: France won 40-18, Rome
2016: France won 23-21, Paris
2015: France won 32-10, London
Prediction: Italy’s confidence will be very high after their 85-15 win over Russia. However, causing an upset against Les Bleus in France will just be too challenging. Thus France will win the match by 10 points.
France: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Gaël Fickou, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Jefferson Poirot (captain).
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Francois Cros, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Virimi Vakatawa, 23 Thomas Ramos.
Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Matteo Minozzi, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Abraham Steyn, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Simone Ferrari.
Replacements: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Sebastian Negri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Date: Friday, August 30
Venue: Stade de France, St Denis
Kick-off: 21.10 (19.10 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)