All change for France and Italy
February 2, 2012
Julien Malzieu turns out for France for the first time since 2010 © Getty Images
Philippe Saint-Andre's France go head to head with Jacques Brunel's Italy on Saturday in the opening clash of the Six Nations.
Both coaches are new to their respective roles and have made an array of changes from the sides which finished the World Cup. While France bowed out at the semi-final stage, Italy failed to progress from their pool. And Saint-Andre has handed a debut to Clermont Auvergne centre Wesley Fofana and he will partner Aurelien Rougerie in the centres with fellow Clermont back Julien Malzieu starting on the wing - his first appearance in a France shirt since their Test in Buenos Aires back in June 2010.
Maxime Medard keeps his spot at fullback and will line up alongside his Toulouse team-mate Vincent Clerc. But the former Toulon boss has favoured Biarritz's Dimitri Yachvili over Clermont's Morgan Parra at half-back with Montpellier's Francois Trinh-Duc starting at fly-half.
In the forwards, Saint-Andre hands a start to loose-head Vincent Debaty - who earns his first cap since facing Romania back in 2006. William Servat and Nicholas Mas line up alongside him in the front-row while veteran Lionel Nallet partners Pascal Pape in the second-row - the same partnership which faced the All Blacks back in October. In the back-row - Julien Bonnaire, Louis Picamoles and captain Thierry Dusautoir get the nod with Imanol Harinordoquy having to be content with a spot amongst the replacements.
And the Azzurri have shaken things up in the backs with debutant Giovanbattista Venditti partnered by Andrea Masi and Luke McLean in the back three. Winger-come-centre Tommaso Benvenuti lines up at 13 while Alberto Sgarbi takes in the inside centre berth. Their partnership means Clermont centre Gonzalo Canale has to be content with a spot on the bench. Kris Burton takes the fly-half reins while Edoardo Gori lines up at scrum-half.
In the pack Brunel has gone for the tried and tested with inspirational skipper Sergio Parisse anchoring the side at No.8 but he has opted for Robert Barbieri in the back-row ahead of Mauro Bergamasco. Alessandro Zanni starts at openside with Quintin Geldenhuys lining up at lock along with Cornelius van Zyl. The formidable trio of Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Andrea Lo Cicero all start in the front-row.
France team: M Medard (Toulouse); V Clerc (Toulouse), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), W Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), J Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne); F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), D Yachvili (Biarritz); V Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), W Servat (Toulouse), N Mas (Perpignan), P Pape (Stade Francais), L Nallet (Racing Metro), T Dusautoir (capt, Toulouse), J Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), L Picamoles (Toulouse)
Replacements: D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), J-B Poux (Toulouse), Y Maestri (Toulouse), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), M Parra (Clermont Auvergne), L Beauxis (Toulouse), M Mermoz (Perpignan)
Italy side: A Masi (Aironi), G Venditti (Aironi), T Benvenuti (Treviso), A Sgarbi (Treviso), L Mclean (Treviso), K Burton (Treviso), E Gori (Treviso); A Lo Cicero (Racing Metro), L Ghiraldini (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester Tigers), C van Zyl (Treviso), Q Geldenhuys (Aironi), A Zanni (Treviso), R Barbieri (Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Francais)
Replacements: T D'Apice (Aironi), L Cittadini (Treviso), M Bortolami (Aironi), S Favaro (Aironi), F Semenzato (Treviso), T Botes (Treviso), G Canale (Clermont Auvergne)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wal)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
With the World Cup only a few months away, the last thing France needed was doubts over the future of their coach, writes Huw Richards
They came to Murrayfield looking to put down a marker, but Scotland were sent home with their tails between their legs, writes Tristan Barclay
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland