France eye penultimate hurdle
March 8, 2010
France wing Maxime Medard is congratulated after scoring his second try against Italy in 2009 © Getty Images
France take on Italy in Paris on Sunday as they go in search of another win to keep alive their hopes of a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2004.
France prevailed last season following a battering by England, ending their Championship on a high by racking up a half-century in Rome.
The Azzurri are on a high after a narrow loss to England and a vital victory over Scotland, their first in the Six Nations since 2008. They lost all of their Championship matches in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
The nations meet for the 31st time since 1937 in a major Test. The first game was staged as part of a Paris exhibition tournament that also featured Belgium and Germany.
The sides did not meet again at full cap level until 1952, when the French engaged on a 15-year exchange of spring fixtures with the Italians. After 1967, the match was downgraded by the French to a B-fixture. Full official hostilities resumed at the beginning of the professional era, in 1995.
This will be the 11th time the countries have met in the International Championship since 2000. France head the series by 29 wins to one. Italy's only win to date was in a friendly played in Grenoble a week after France had won the 1997 Five Nations Grand Slam.
France hold the records for the highest score, the biggest winning margin and most tries scored in a match. They won 60-13 in Toulon in 1967, scoring eleven tries.
Italy's highest score is their 40-32 win in Grenoble in 1997. They scored four tries that day, a feat they later achieved in their matches of 2000 and 2003.
Maurice Celhay set the record for most tries in a match, scoring four for France when the sides first met, at the original Parc des Princes in 1937. Alessandro Troncon crossed twice for Italy in Paris in 2000.
Christian Darrouy heads the list of try scorers for the overall series, crossing seven times between 1957 and 1967.
Italians hold the other major records for the matches: Diego Dominguez scored 71 points (compared with 54 for France by Dimitri Yachvili), and Sergio Lanfranchi, a versatile forward who was capped as a prop, lock, flanker and No 8, played 11 times in this fixture between 1953 and 1964.
Italy-France Six Nations results:
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton