France look for flair in Rome

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Updated: February 1, 2013

France kick off their 6 Nations campaign at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome against a much improved Italy.

Italian head coach Brunel led Italy to a fifth place finish last year thanks to a closing 13-6 victory over Scotland in Rome, having produced one of their best ever performances in a 15-19 loss to England. They also produced some encouraging performances against Australia and New Zealand recently, and will not forget the 22-21 win over France in 2011.

Despite the improvements, Italian captain, the brilliant  Sergio Parisse, remains under no illusions that they still have a way to go if they are to compete consistently with Europe’s elite.

For France 2011 IRB player of the year and former captain Thierry Dusautoir makes a welcome return following a knee injury while Pascal Pape who successfully filled in during Dusautoir’s absence and has retained the captain’s armband.

There is also a recall for the explosive Mathieu Bastareaud after a 3 year absence, although the Toulon power house will start off the bench.

Frederic Michalak retains the number 10 jersey following a string of top class attacking performances in November, including a demolition job over the Wallabies. Michalak has been playing for the Sharks in the Super 15’s over the last few years, an education that has matured him into one of the best flyhalves in the world.

On paper it appears the French will come out comfortably in this one, however the same was thought 2 years ago.

France

15-Yoann Huget, 14-Wesley Fofana, 13-Florian Fritz, 12-Maxime Mermoz, 11-Benjamin Fall, 10-Frederic Michalak, 9-Maxime Machenaud, 8-Louis Picamoles, 7-Thierry Dusautoir, 6-Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5-Yoann Maestri, 4-Pascal Pape (captain), 3-Nicolas Mas, 2-Dimitri Szarzewski, 1-Yannick Forestier.

Replacements: 16-Benjamin Kayser, 17-Vincent Debaty, 18-Luc Ducalcon, 19-Romain Taofifenua, 20-Damien Chouly, 21-Morgan Parra, 22-François Trinh-Duc, 23-Mathieu Bastareaud.

Italy

From Forwards: Robert Barbieri, Martin Castrogiovanni, Lorenzo Cittadini, Alberto De Marchi, Paul Derbyshire, Simone Favaro, Joshua Furno, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Davide Giazzon, Quintin Geldenhuys, Andrea Lo Cicero, Francesco Minto, Sergio Parisse (captain), Antonio Pavanello, Michele Rizzo, Ratu Vosawai, Alessandro Zanni

Backs: Tommaso Benvenuti, Tobias Botes, Kristopher Burton, Paolo Buso, Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Edoardo Gori, Tommaso Iannone, Andrea Masi, Luke Mclean, Luciano Orquera, Alberto Sgarbi, Giovanbattista Venditti