Fri 15 Mar 2019 | 12:27

Preview: Italy v France

Preview: Italy v France
Fri 15 Mar 2019 | 12:27
Preview: Italy v France

SIX NATIONS ROUND FIVE: Italy coach Conor O’Shea called on his side to give captain Sergio Parisse and fellow veterans Alessandro Zanni and Leonardo Ghiraldini a farewell to remember with a first win in the Six Nations in four years against France at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

The game against a weakened French side looks set to be the final Six Nations match for Parisse, who will extend his record in the tournament to 70 caps.

The 35-year-old Stade Francais number eight has 138 caps for Italy since making his international debut in 2002, while Treviso flanker Zanni has 110 caps and Toulouse hooker Ghiraldini, 103.

“I think that a great performance next Saturday could be rightful recognition for them and the whole group,” said O’Shea of the trio who are set to retire after this year’s World Cup.

“It is difficult sometimes to have so much energy after a game like last Saturday [against England], but when I see Sergio, Alessandro and Leonardo fighting more and more in training.

“They always have the same energy week in, week out,” said O’Shea.

Italy are looking for a first win in the tournament since February 2015 – a run of 22nd successive defeats.

Their only win against France was a 23-18 Six Nations victory in the Stadio Olympico in February 2013.

But O’Shea believes they have a good chance against the French who have had a disappointing Six Nations campaign and are just ahead of the Italians in the table.

France – who last won the tournament in 2010 – have just one win against an injury-depleted Scotland (27-10) with defeats to Wales (24-19), England (44-8) and Ireland (26-14) last time out.

O’Shea has made five changes from his team that were thrashed 57-14 by England at Twickenham, bringing in centre Marco Zanon, 21, for his first cap.

“Our focus will be on ourselves, trying to play our best rugby. We want to close the tournament with a great performance at the Stadio Olimpico,” said Irishman O’Shea.

The Italian have no points, having lost all four games and are trying to avoid a 14th ‘wooden spoon’ for a whitewash since 2000.

Four changes upfront see Ghiraldini coming in for Luca Bigi, who drops to the bench, while prop Tiziano Pasquali is selected ahead of Simone Ferrari.

David Sisi starts at lock and will earn a fifth cap while English-born Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri is preferred to Sebastian Negri, who starts on the bench, along with Zanni.

France coach Jacques Brunel warned his side were determined to show their true face in Rome, as they sit fifth, equal on points with Scotland, but ahead of Italy.

“It’s up to us to show in this last match that the face shown against England and Ireland was not the true France team,” said Brunel.

“We haven’t fixed everything, of course there are still things we need to work on. We will carry on, working hard and with the World Cup to come, we are hopeful we can get it right.”

“It’s not our best time … it’s a difficult period,” added flanker Yacouba Camara.

“It’s sad to say, but we can measure ourselves against Scotland and Italy. We’re sort of at their level even if it’s not our (real) level.”

Brunel has made six changes from the defeat in Dublin, but has kept faith in captain Guilhem Guirado to lead the team into the World Cup which runs from September 20 to November 2 in Japan.

Brunel has made six changes from the defeat in Dublin, but has kept faith in captain Guilhem Guirado to lead the team into the World Cup which runs from September 20 to November 2 in Japan.

Back rower Wenceslas Lauret and prop Jefferson Poirot were both injured against Ireland, making way for Gregory Alldritt, 21, and Etienne Falgoux, 26, respectively, who are in the starting lineup for the first time.

The other changes give added experience in the backline with the recall of Maxime Medard, 32, capped 55 times, at fullback and 31-year-old Wesley Fofana at centre.

In the pack, Paul Willemse replaces Sebastien Vahaamahina in the second row while Yacouba Camara returns to the back row in place of Arthur Iturria.

Players to watch:

For Italy: Tommaso Allan has the crucial role of managing the game. New Zealand born Jayden Hayward will also be a vital weapon when it comes to attack. Captain Sergio Parisse’s leadership will be vital in their pursuit to avoid the wooden spoon.

For France: Head coach Jacques Brunel’s decision to hand the captaincy to captain Guilhem Guirado after the defeat to England certainly raise a few eyebrows, nonetheless the hooker can use this as restate himself as a French favourite. The highly controversial Mathieu Bastareaud is always in the spotlight, the centre will have to control his emotions against the fiery Italians.

Head to Head:  The loose trio match-up looks intriguing.  At No.8 Louis Picamoles (France) and Sergio Parisse (Italy) will be out to hand their teams the advantage – certainly the battle of stalwart.

Recent results: 

2018: France won 34-14, Paris
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
2011: Italy win 22-21, Rome
2010: France won 46-20, Paris
2009: France won 50-8, Rome

Prediction: If there is one team Italy can beat – it is France. The Les Bleus have been struggling to get build momentum and tier internal bickering certainly adds to the team’s on-field problems. But, despite the captaincy drama, France’s successful history over Azzurri speaks volumes, thus France should win by about 10 points.

Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Marco Zanon , 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Angelo Esposito , 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Sergio Parisse (Captain), 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Abraham Jurgens Steyn, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 David Sisi , 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi , 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Alessandro Zanni, 20 Sebastian Negri, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Ian Mckinley, 23 Luca Sperandio

France: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Gregory Alldritt, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Felix Lambey, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Etienne Falgoux.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Arthur Iturria, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Thomas Ramos.

Date: Saturday, March 16
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 13.30 (12.30 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

Source: @rugby365com & AFP

PV: 610

Preview: Italy V France - France | Rugby365