PREVIEW: France v Italy
SIX NATIONS ROUND TWO: France head coach Fabien Galthie said he was looking for ‘consistency’ in the next stage of his youthful side’s development as they host Italy in the Six Nations on Sunday.
Galthie’s inexperienced outfit outclassed England in their opener in Paris last weekend but their former scrumhalf played down the significance of one impressive result and said he was looking ahead, beyond the Six Nations to the next World Cup.
“The consistency and the vision is something we are building and we have shown the players it did not stop on February 2. What we share with the players will last until 2023 and for this competition goes until March 14,” he said on Friday.
“February 2 was just a step. It was an essential and important step,” he added.
Even though the Azzurri opened their campaign with a 0-42 loss at reigning Grand Slam champions Wales, Galthie remained modest about France’s chances of beating an opponent which has gone 23 games without a win in the competition.
“We have to have a feeling of sincerity in the changing room before and after the match,” he said.
“We don’t talk about the score, the tries, the points difference or the show. We talk about the feeling and the objective is a sincere satisfaction,” he added.
The one change to the starting line-up from the win over the World Cup runners up is Arthur Vincent replacing Virimi Vakatawa. It will be the Montpellier centre’s first Test start.
“He has the perfect career path. French youth teams, most notably a part of the world champion generation, captain last year,” Galthie said.
“He can slow things down and speed things up so he’s a player who adapts well with his midfield partner. We expect a performance at the level he has shown us regularly,” he added.
For the visitors interim head coach Franco Smith drew comparisons with the hosts for the Transalpine derby and refused to blame on player for the loss in the Welsh capital last Saturday.
“We are putting a new team together, we’re like France, we’re starting over and playing maybe in different way. There’s a new coach and new ideas so we can’t point the finger at individuals,” South African Smith told AFP on Friday.
“We had our moments against Wales where we didn’t score. The first sign of a team getting better is when they start making use of the opportunities. I’m sure we will have our opportunities on Sunday,” he added.
Smith praised France scrumhalf Antoine Dupont who stood out at the Stade de France last Sunday and set up Charles Ollivon’s second try.
“He is really somebody who we look out for. He’s the heartbeat of the attack and he’s the heartbeat of the French pack,” Smith said.
“We know through the years French teams have done well when they have a good nine driving them. Fabien Galthie was in that way,” he added.
Smith, who had spells coaching and playing with Italian clubs earlier in his career, remained positive about his side’s chances.
“Anything’s possible. I’ll leave it at that.”
Players to watch:
For France: Anthony Bouthier became an overnight internet sensation after one clearing kick in the impressive French win over World Cup finalists England. Receiving the ball on his own 5m line, the 27-year-old debutant produced a spiral kick that will stick in the memory. The ball travelled a full 60 metres before landing and rolling on to go into touch on the English 5m line, an astonishing 90-metre clearance. Meanwhile, Charles Ollivon had a dream start to his captaincy of France, scoring a classy double of tries in the win over England. The flank was ubiquitous, bolstered by an enormous shift put in by South African-born lock pairing of Bernard Le Roux and Paul Willemse, ploughing the defensive line peddled by new specialist coach Shaun Edwards.
For Italy: Italy have brought in skilful New Zealand-born utility back Jayden Hayward, a proven runner and competent kicker, in as fullback for the France game, shifting Matteo Minozzi to the left wing. Minozzi made four offloads in his 14 carries, making 143 metres as the Azzurri covered 850m without reward against the Welsh. After a 0-42 drubbing, it is sometimes hard to take the positives, but one for Italy was tighthead prop Giosue Zilocchi. The 23-year-old made a number of pundits’ team of the weekend for the first round of the Six Nations, no mean feat when you look at the quality on show. Zilocchi kept the Italian scrum in the game and will again need to produce against a French front row that held its own against England.
Head to Head: Braam Steyn, Jake Polledri and Seb Negri will have their work cut out on Sunday, and will need to be at the top of their game to nullify the threat Charles Ollivon and his French teammates bring. With Italy coach Franco Smith having stuck with the double play-making pair of Tommaso Allan and Carlo Canna, Matteo Minozzi can but hope to see more ball to test himself against France’s threatening wing pairing of Teddy Thomas and Vincent Rattez.
2019: France won 47-19, Paris
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 (World Cup Pool match)
2015: France won 29-0, Rome
2014: France won 30-10, Paris
2013: Italy won 23-18, Rome
2012: France won 30-12, Paris
Prediction: France will be too strong and will win this one by 20 points or more.
France: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Damian Penaud, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Francois Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Jefferson Poirot, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Boris Palu, 21 Cameron Woki, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Mathieu Jalibert.
Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Matteo Minozzi, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Niccolo Cannone, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Giosue Zilochhi, 2 Luca Bigi (captain), 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Giovanni Licata, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Giulio Bisegni.
Date: Sunday, February 9
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 16.00 (15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Showers are expected with a high of 13°C and a low of 8°C with a strong breeze
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)