Friday, March 12, 2010

Six Nations rugby 2010 : France V Italy Hospitality

In theory, this should be a simple assignment for Les Bleus, seemingly on an inexorable path towards the title and a potential Grand Slam, but Italy would love to inflict one of the great upsets in the championships history.

France are aware more than anyone else of their own reputation for inconsistency, and no doubt coach Marc Lievremont would have been showing replays of their last 40 minutes of test rugby, when Wales came within a whisker of winning at Millennium Stadium.

That game will remind the Tricolours of their own mortality, and while their final match with England will decide the championship, they will want to make a statement at the expense of an Italian team that will arrive in Paris with some belief, after downing Scotland in Rome.
Italy will try to make it awkward for their opponents, and in more thorough analysis it can be revealed that they have hardly been whipping boys this tournament, with the exception of their first half of rugby against Ireland.

They may still be struggling with their attack, but defensively they have the third best defence by points scored in the tournament, and have let in only four tries – with only France (three conceded) having the better record.
But where they have looked better is that it appears Coach Nick Mallet has dropped the “damage control limitation” game plan, and is actually encouraging his team to win. Furthermore, they are embracing their natural awkwardness, proving in this tournament, as they did against the Tri Nations power last year; that they are a difficult team to play against.
Their only victory came in 1997 when Massimo Giovanelli led Italy to a remarkable 40-32 win at the Stade Lesdiguieres in Grenoble, France. The incomparable Diego Dominguez converted all four Italian tries that day and kicked a further four penalties. The best efforts of a strong French team, led by Fabien Pelous came to nothing as they became the first and only team to lose to the Italians.
France has named a strong side, although they continue to be hamstrung by injuries. But despite this, they have a level of depth which shows that perhaps Lievremont’s selection policies were in fact the act of an inspired genius.
Only two changes have been made after their 26-20 win over Wales, with David Marty coming into the side forcing Mathieu Bastareaud to the bench.
Castres winger Marc Andreu takes over for Julien Malzieu of Clermont, while Biarritz number nine Dimitri Yachvili makes his return to the national side, coming in on the bench to replace the injured Frederic Michalak.

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