Six Nations: Italy v France preview: Team news and key stats

France head coach Jacques Brunel
Jacques Brunel has won just four matches since taking over as France head coach last year
Six Nations: Italy v France
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Saturday, 16 March Kick-off: 12:30 GMT
Coverage: Live scores and report on the BBC Sport website.

Team news & line-ups

Treviso centre Marco Zanon will make his debut for Italy on Saturday in a side featuring five changes from the loss against England.

Zebre forward David Sisi replaces the injured Dean Budd at lock, while Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri also returns in the back row.

France make six changes, with Wesley Fofana recovering from injury to make a final Six Nations appearance.

The Clermont centre is retiring from internationals following the World Cup.

Toulouse full-back Maxime Medard is preferred to Thomas Ramos and Clermont prop Etienne Falgoux makes a first start.

France have only won once in this year's championship, a 27-10 victory over Scotland in Paris, while Italy are seeking their first Six Nations victory since 2015.

Italy: 15-Hayward; 14-Padovani, 13-Zanon, 12-Morisi, 11-Esposito; 10-Allan, 9-Tebaldi; 1-Lovotti, 2-Ghiraldini, 3-Pasquali, 4-Sisi, 5-Ruzza, 6-Steyn, 7-Polledri, 8-Parisse (capt)

Replacements: 16-Bigi, 17-Traore, 18-Ferrari, 19-Zanni, 20-Negri, 21-Palazzani, 22-McKinley, 23-Sperandio

France: 15-Medard; 14-Penaud, 13-Bastareaud, 12-Fofana, 11-Huget; 10-Ntamack, 9-Dupont; 1-Falgoux, 2-Guirado (capt), 3-Bamba, 4-Lambey, 5-Willemse, 6-Alldritt, 7-Camara, 8-Picamoles

Replacements: 16-Chat, 17-Priso, 18-Aldegheri, 19-Gabrillagues, 20-Iturria, 21-Serin, 22-Lopez, 23-Ramos

Commentator's notes

Sara Orchard: "The stakes are high for these two sides. The winner could be the one that can maintain their composure rather than let emotion dominate their game plan.

"With Jacques Brunel making six changes you worry any kind of consistency is being eroded (again), although retaining the Dupont-Ntamack half-back partnership will be a relief for many French fans.

"Italy have been forced into five changes after the injuries suffered at Twickenham last week. However, if Conor O'Shea's side can use home advantage and exploit French inconsistency, their Six Nations barren run might finally end."

View from both camps

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea: "We will play against a very strong team as always happens in the Six Nations.

"Our focus will be on ourselves, trying to play our best rugby. We want to finish the championship with a great performance at Stadio Olimpico."

France head coach Jacques Brunel: "We want to show a different face this week, but the results speak for themselves. We are not at the level of some of the other teams in this championship.

"But the team that played against Ireland and England, that was not the real French team.

"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."

Six Nations standings
Wales will receive a three-point bonus if they beat Ireland to clinch the Grand Slam, thus ensuring they will be crowned Six Nations champions

Match facts

Head-to-head

  • Italy have beaten France just twice in the Six Nations (L17).
  • They could win at home to Les Bleus for a third time in five Six Nations matches. Both of their victories came in Rome in 2011 and 2013.
  • France have won convincingly in the last two away meetings - 40-18 in 2017 and 29-0 in 2015.
  • They average 34.7 points in this fixture in the Six Nations. Italy average just 14.7.

Italy

  • Italy have lost their last 21 Six Nations matches - a Championship record - while their last win in this tournament came four years ago against Scotland.
  • They have conceded 849 points at an average of 40.4 per game during that 21-match run.
  • Italy have won just six games and lost 31 since the 2015 World Cup.
  • Their overall record in the Six Nations stands at won 12, drawn one and lost 86.
  • The Azzurri's overall points difference in the Six Nations is -1,828.

France

  • France have won just two of their last 11 Tests, and four of the last 21 (D1, L16).
  • They could finish fifth in the Six Nations table for just a third time, but second since 2016.
  • Les Bleus can also end the Six Nations with one victory for only the second time.
  • They have won four matches and lost 11 under Jacques Brunel.

Match officials

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)

Touch judges: Nigel Owens (Wales) & Andrew Brace (Ireland)

TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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