Italy vs France Six Nations preview

Italy will be looking to defy the tide of history when they host France in the Six Nations match they fear most at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.


While Italy have on occasions kept things reasonably close in Paris since they were admitted to the Six Nations, at home they have suffered one thrashing after another.


Three times in their five games at home to the elegant French in this competition they have conceded more than 50 points. Italy have even seemed to be getting worse rather than better against France having lost 42-31 and 30-19 in their first two Six Nations efforts against the French.


In 2005 they were humiliated 56-13 at home and two years ago it was just one point less embarrassing as they succumbed to a 50-8 reverse.


The last two years alone have seen them give up 96 points in a game somewhat pointlessly played for the honour of holding aloft the Garibaldi trophy, first awarded in 2007 and so far won only by France.


In fact, Italy have only beaten France once in 32 previous encounters and that dates back to when they were still amateur, in 1997.


But now the two sides come into the game with very different objectives in mind.


Despite their 17-9 defeat to England at Twickenham two weeks ago, France can still win the Six Nations championship if they win their final two games and the English slip up against either Scotland or Ireland.


Italy meanwhile had one eye on next week’s expected wooden spoon decider against Scotland at Murrayfield as coach Nick Mallett made six changes to his starting line-up.


Despite missing out on a chance to claim a second successive Grand Slam, France coach Marc Lievrement insists his team will be up for the clash.


“It’s frustrating to see the English heading towards a probable Grand Slam but we have to continue in this tournament to look for an honourable finish,” he said.


“It’s never easy to play in Italy although we’ve shown we know how to approach these games over the last two Six Nations.


“But we saw that it wouldn’t have been scandalous had the Italians beaten Ireland and Wales.


“If they lose against us they’ll be playing to avoid the wooden spoon against Scotland so we have no doubt their players will be determined.”


For Italy to avoid another thrashing against the French they will have to perform at least as well as they did in their narrow defeats at home to Ireland (13-11) and Wales (24-16).


What they must avoid most of all is another display similar to their Twickenham debacle in which they came away with a chastising 59-13 reverse.


One of their culprits in chief that day was fly-half Luciano Orquera, who missed three tackles that led directly to England tries.


The Brive player was dropped against Wales but regains a starting role ahead of Australian-born Kris Burton as one of eight France-based players in the starting 15.


And Orquera is the first to admit he has to do better than he did against England.


“Obviously it’s another opportunity for me on Saturday and I’m not happy with the way I played against England,” he said.


“So I hope to raise my game and play in the right way both tactically and defensively.


“Most of all in defence I must be effective because we know they have players who are physical and fast and able to offload.


“It’s going to be a very important game for me defensively to show something different to what I did against England.”


Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZL)


Teams (15-1)


Italy


Andrea Masi; Tommaso Benvenuti, Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco; Luciano Orquera, Fabio Semenzato; Sergio Parisse (capt), Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zanni; Carlo Del Fava, Santiao Dellape; Martin Castrogiovanni, Carlo Festuccia, Andrea Lo Cicero


Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Salvatore Perugini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Paul Derbyshire, Pablo Canavosio

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