France vs Italy Preview - Six Nations 2012

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France vs ItalyFrance vs Italy kicks-off the 2012 Six Nations on Saturday as the two continental teams clash at the Stade de France. France are the 5/4 favourites to win the Six Nations and they'll expect to begin their campaign with a comfortable win. The French never make it easy for themselves though and they only have to look at last year's loss in Rome as a warning against complacency.

France (10/11 -21 H'cap vs Italy) have undergone an overhaul of their backroom staff since their loss in the world cup final last year. Former French winger Philippe Saint-Andre, who won 69 caps for his country, is the new coach and there have been positive noises coming out of the French camp since his appointment. Saint-Andre is demanding consistency from his group of players, a trait that has been elusive from French sides for as long as memory serves.

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There is no doubt that France have the players to take this tournament by storm. Maxime Medard can easily claim to be the best full-back in Europe if not on the planet and Saint-Andre appears to be trusting Francois Trinh-Duc at fly-half and this should help the player develop while new additions to the squad, namely Julien Malzieu and Wesley Fofana, bring great penetration to the back line after shredding defences across Europe so far this season.

Italy (10/11 +21 H'Cap vs France) also have a new-look management team with Jacques Brunel replacing Nick Mallet. There is no doubt that Italy progressed well under Mallet but it was widely felt that he had taken the team as far as he could. The forward-centric style instilled by Mallet no doubt helped them to last year's historic win over France in Rome but new coach Brunel has promised to add attacking impetus to the Azzurri's backline.

Brunel would be wise to opt for evolution over revolution as going all-out attack in Paris could spell disaster for his side. Last year's pack remain mostly intact and they'll have to be at their belligerent best to disrupt France's play. It's tought to see them staying on level terms for 80 minutes though and failing stamina may prove the difference late on.

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Teams

France: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 William Servat, 1 Vincent Debaty.

Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Yoann Maestri, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Morgan Parra, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Maxime Mermoz.

Italy:15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c) 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Quintin Geldenhuys, 4 Cornelius van Zyl, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.

Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Lorenzo Cittadini, 18 Marco Bortolami, 19 Simone Favaro, 20 Fabio Semenzato, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Gonzalo Canale.

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