Source: 6 Nations

France v Italy

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Round Three – Preview

Sunday 14 April
Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris, KO 12.30 (UK time)

As usual, we have to fancy France’s chances at home in the capital, but Italy are finding some real form. There is more cohesion about their play than we have seen in recent seasons, partly helped by maintaining consistency in the line-up. Teams are shown below.

Italy

Nanni Raineri has made minimal changes to the side that won a tight game in Ireland. The backs stay in place; in the pack Francesca Sgorbini and Silvia Turani haven’t recovered from injuries suffered in the last round, and the captain, Elisa Giordano, still hasn’t got over her stomach injury. In her place Ilaria Arrighetti makes a welcome return after a damaged knee.

Two striking features of the side are the multiple caps of the starting Fifteen, contrasting with the inexperience of the bench; just the one exception there, Lucia Gai, who is looking forward to her 98th cap.
I can’t help feeling Raineri would like to be able to promote some of these younger hopefuls straight in as first choices. There is a great advantage in a settled team, but it’s even better when it’s a winning team. So for the moment he is acclimatising his newer faces slowly to the big time.

France

Ithis game is a challenge as much for the co-coaches as for the players. No blame has been laid officially at anyone’s feet for the disappointing performance in WXV, which makes a pleasant change in the Age of Blame, but it’s vital for les Bleues to regain their former cohesion as they continue their voyage to the next RWC.

They return to the Stade Jean-Bouin in Paris for the first time in a decade. Then it was to gain a bronze medal in the 2014 World Cup; now it is to renew their advance against Italy. The Azzurre have caused them some embarrassment in the past, and a draw in the men’s game won’t have stilled concerns this time.

The co-coaches have switched the two flankers; Gaëlle Hermet returns to the bench; Axelle Berthoumieu has to sit this one out. In the backs the new face, Kelly Arbey, has to give way to Mélissande Llorens on the wing, despite her try-scoring debut. Such is life at the top.

Selections over the past two years have failed to satisfy many French supporters, but this line-up looks capable of tearing most sides to pieces. The trouble is, we have thought that before, and les Bleues have failed to stem the doubts. A win is a near certainty; the question remains: will it totally convince?

Teams:

France

15 Emilie Boulard 14 Marine Ménager 13 Nassira Kondé 12 Gabrielle Vernier 11 Mélissande Llorens 10 Lina Queyroi 9 Pauline Bourdon Sansus 1Annaëlle Deshayes 2 Agathe Sochat 3 Assia Khalfaoui 4 Manae Feleu (captain) 5 Madoussou Fall 6 Charlotte Escudero 7 Emeline Gros 8 Romane Ménager

16 Elisa Riffonneau 17 Ambre Mwayembe 18 Clara Joyeux 19 Gaëlle Hermet 20 Teani Feleu 21 Alex Chambon 22 Lina Tuy 23 Morgane Bourgeois

Italy

15 Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi 14 Aura Muzzo 13 Beatrice Rigoni 12 Emma Stevanin 11 Alyssa D’Incà 10 Veronica Madia 9 Sofia Stefan (captain) 1 Silvia Turani 2 Vittoria Vecchini 3 Sara Seye 4 Valeria Fedrighi 5 Giordana Duca 6 Sara Tounesi 7 Isabella Locatelli 8 Ilaria Arrighetti

16 Laura Gurioli 17 Emanuela Stecca 18 Lucia Gai 19 Alessia Pilani 20 Beatrice Veronese 21 Alessandra Frangipani 22 Francesca Granzotto, 23 Beatrice Capomaggi

Officials:

Referee: Joy Neville (IRFU)
ARs: Holly Wood (RFU) and Maria Heitor (POR)
TMO: Leo Colgan (IRFU)

This will be Joy Neville’s 27th and final test match in charge, before she moves to a higher post off the field. We wish her all the best in Paris and beyond. She is one of the rare referees to have reached the top of the tree as a player (a Grand Slam) before taking up the whistle.

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