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Pressure is on France ahead of key Six Nations clash against Italy

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-12

While Italy’s rugby team entertains little hope of beating France in Saturday’s Six Nations clash, France must win to have any chance of retaining the tournament title and to make up for the loss against England who are now favourites.

AP - France needs to maintain an impressive record in Rome on Saturday to have any chance of retaining the Six Nations rugby title.

France has to win and win well against Italy to keep the pressure on unbeaten tournament leader England, which became the title favorite when it handed France its first loss 17-9 in the last round nearly two weeks ago.
 
Italy has conceded an average of 45 points against France in Rome since joining the championship in 2000.
 
Another flood of points from France would not only keep the Tricolors on England’s tail, but also boost France’s points differential in the table. England had a big lead in that area thanks to a too-easy 59-13 win over Italy at Twickenham a month ago.
 
But in the aftermath of France’s loss to England, retaining the title is a less important focus than getting back to winning for embattled coach Marc Lievremont.
 
“We are just thinking about tomorrow’s game,” Lievremont said on Friday. “We want to recover as soon as possible from the loss to England and put it behind us.
 
“There is an element of truth that our destiny is not in our hands, but in those of others. Even so, first we have to think about winning.
 
“They (Italy) are a bunch of gritty players, but they have some talented players and that is why we are wary.”
 
Lievremont made three changes to his side, including bringing back prop Sylvain Marconnet for his 83rd cap to counter Italy strongman Martin Castrogiovanni, and recalling the fit-again playmaker Maxime Medard at fullback.
 
But one change many expected didn’t happen, when Lievremont kept Sebastien Chabal at No. 8, ahead of the more versatile Imanol Harinordoquy, who stayed in the reserves.
 
Lievremont was savaged by France’s media after his changes for the England game backfired _ notably starting Chabal _ and led to an underwhelming performance.
 
It ended France’s hopes of winning successive Grand Slams, and many expected the coach to bring back Harinordoquy, who began the championship strongly.
 
Italy captain Sergio Parisse was hopeful his side can capitalize on Lievremont’s idiosyncratic selection policy on Saturday at Stadio Flaminio.
 
“They are two completely different players,” Parisse said. “Harinordoquy is a more complete player than Chabal, who is more of a physical player and who tries to make more of a physical impact than Imanol does.
 
“I think it is better for us to play against someone like Chabal than Harinordoquay. Like I said, Harinordoquy is a more all-around player. He is important in the lineout and is good with the ball in hand.”
 
Chabal will start alongside captain Thierry Dusautoir and Julien Bonnaire in the back row.
 
“It was a strategic choice by Marc and the coaches,” Dusautoir said. “We worked all this week with this back row and it was the same that played against Argentina in the autumn, so it is no problem.”
 
Italy goes into the match following losses to Ireland, England and Wales and with little hope of a first Six Nations win against its rival.
 
With a trip to Scotland to follow France’s visit, Italy is facing the possibility of a second winless championship in four under coach Nick Mallett.
 
Wales last time out was seen as Italy’s best chance of a win, but the Azzurri came up short with a 24-16 loss, and Mallett has been worried about a sustained letdown.
 
“I don’t want another disastrous weekend like we had after we played well against Ireland,” Mallett said. “It is difficult to manage the mental pressure, but we want to play four top-level matches in this competition so as to forget about England.”
 
Mallett made seven changes following the Wales defeat, with prop Andrea Lo Cicero and hooker Carlo Festuccia brought back into the starting 15. The duo are two of five Italian starters who play club rugby alongside Chabal at Racing Metro Paris.
 
“(Chabal) won’t be bothered by the criticism he’s had and from what I saw of the match he did OK,” Lo Cicero said. “The problem for Chabal now is that whether he plays well or plays badly he gets criticized. I expect he will try to play his normal game and will be pumped up for the match. As we will be to play against him.”
 
Mallett made a surprise decision of his own when he changed his flyhalf for the second time in this championship, with Luciano Orquera replacing Kristopher Burton.
 
Orquera was criticized for his poor defense in the drubbing from England, but Mallett has no concerns about his ability to stand up to powerful running from Chabal and centers Yannick Jauzion and Aurelien Rougerie.
 
“Against a very strong attack (Australia) we only conceded two tries with Orquera,” Mallett said. “He made 16 tackles (against England) and missed three but they resulted in three tries. He didn’t miss all his tackles.”
 
Lineups:
 
Italy: Andrea Masi, Tommaso Benvenuti, Gonzalo Canale, Gonzalo Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco, Luciano Orquera, Fabio Semenzato; Andrea Lo Cicero, Carlo Festuccia, Martin Castrogiovanni, Santiago Dellape, Carlo Del Fava, Alessandro Zanni, Robert Barbieri, Sergio Parisse (captain). Replacements:
 
Leonardo Ghiraldini, Salvatore Perugini, Quintin Geldenhuys, Paul Derbyshire, Pablo Canavosio, Kristopher Burton, Luke McLean.
 
France: Maxime Medard, Yoann Huget, Aurelien Rougerie, Yannick Jauzion, Vincent Clerc, Francois Trinh-Duc, Morgan Parra; Sylvain Marconnet, William Servat, Nicolas Mas, Julien Pierre, Lionel Nallet, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Julien Bonnaire, Sebastien Chabal. Replacements: Guilhem Guirado, Luc Ducalcon, Jerome Thion, Imanol Harinordoquy, Julien Thomas, Damien Traille, Clement Poitrenaud.
 

 

Date created : 2011-03-12

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