Hugo Bonneval to make France debut against Italy
Stade Francais player to start on left wing as Saint-Andre makes three changes
Stade Francais’ Hugo Bonneval will make his France debut on the left wing against Italy in Paris on Sunday. Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images
Bonneval’s inclusion is one of three changes Saint-Andre has made to the starting line-up that defeated England 26-24 in a thrilling opening game in Paris last weekend.
The 23-year-old, who usually occupies the fullback position for his club, will win his first cap on the left wing at the expense of Maxime Medard, who was omitted from the 23-man squad.
“It’s a logical choice following his performances with Stade Francais and from what he has shown us for three weeks in training,” Saint-Andre told reporters on Friday.
“He has the pace, the capacity to win one-on-one encounters and we wanted to see him with us. I watched him in a Heineken Cup game between Stade Francais and London Irish... he was outstanding.”
Saint-Andre said he had not dropped Medard for a disappointing display against England but needed to gauge his options out wide as Sofiane Guitoune, who made his debut in the November tests, was injured.
“We need to be able to choose from three high-quality wingers. During the November tests, Maxime played two games, as did Yoann Huget and Sofiane Guitoune,” he said.
Another change to the side will see hooker Dimitri Szarzewski start ahead of Benjamin Kayser, who drops to the bench. Kayser was solid in the scrum against England but struggled with his lineout throws.
Like Medard and replacement flanker Antoine Burban, Flanquart drops out of the 23-man squad completely as Saint-Andre opted to call up Sebastien Vahaamahina, a lock who can also play as a blindside flanker.
“Once you have five forwards and three backs on the bench, Vahaamahina gets the nod ahead of Flanquart because he is more powerful and versatile. It’s also a question of collective balance,” Saint-Andre said.
Outhalf Francois Trinh-Duc, who has 48 caps to his name but has not played for France since last year’s Six Nations victory over Scotland, also makes it onto the bench against Italy, who opened with a 23-15 defeat to Wales in Cardiff.
Trinh-Duc will act as a replacement for the 22-year-old Jules Plisson, who played all 80 minutes last week on his France debut.
“Jules Plisson showed some good things... but we put three backs on the bench because we saw that it had been tough for Jules to play the whole match,” Saint-Andre added.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel has shaken things up by making five changes to the starting XV that lost against Wales for Sunday’s encounter.
Zebre’s Tommaso Iannoni will replace Angelo Esposito on the right wing and will earn his first Six Nations start against France.
Zebre centre Gonzalo Garcia returns to the Azzurri line-up after an eight-month absence and will start in place of Alberto Sgarbi, who has been omitted from the squad.
Biarritz lock Joshua Furno takes Marco Bortolami’s place in Italy’s secondrow while Michele Rizzo is relegated to the bench with Benetton Treviso team-mate Alberto De Marchi taking his spot.
Treviso flanker Francesco Minto replaces Alessandro Zanni, who fractured his nose against Wales and will be on the bench.
Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse will equal Andrea Lo Cicero as Italy’s most capped player when he earns his 103rd cap this weekend.
The Azzurri, who beat France 23-18 last year in Rome, have never won against Les Bleus on French soil in the competition.
FRANCE (v Italy, Stade de France, Sunday, 3.0pm Irish time): B Dulin; Y Huget, M Bastareaud, W Fofana, H Bonneval; J Plisson, J-M Doussain; T Domingo, D Szarzewski, N Mas; P Pape (capt), Y Maestri; Y Nyanga, B Leroux, L Picamoles. Replacements: B Kayser, Y Forestier, R Slimani, S Vahaamahina, D Chouly, M Machenaud, F Trinh-Duc, G Fickou.
ITALY: L McLean; T Iannone, M Campagnaro, G Garcia, L Sarto; T Allan, E Gori; A De Marchi, L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni, Q Geldenhuys, J Furno, M Bergamasco, F Minto, S Parisse. Replacements: D Giazzon, M Rizzo, L Cittadini, M Bortolami, A Zanni, TW Botes, L Orquera, A Esposito.