Conor O’Shea sees France encounter as a ‘new opportunity’ for Italy
Coach says side have learned from their mistakes in losses to Ireland and England
Italy head Conor O’Shea: “I hope we can offer ourselves and our fans a performance to be proud of.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Conor O’Shea wants Italy to learn from their mistakes when the Six Nations Championship enters new territory on Friday.
The Azzurri head to Marseille’s Stade Velodrome (8.0pm) to take on a France team playing its first Six Nations home game outside of Paris.
Both sides lost their opening two fixtures – France by a combined total of eight points – but Italy conceded 15 tries and 102 points in being beaten by England and Ireland.
The losers in Marseille will be firm favourites to prop up this season’s Six Nations table, but Italy boss O’Shea is far from downbeat.
“We have a young group which learns match after match,” he said.
“We knew that the first two games against England and Ireland would be very tough, but there were a lot of positives in our performance.
“I believe very much in this group and in the path we are going down together.
“A year ago, the depth and the internal competition we can count on today were totally different, and I hope everyone in the environment will see the great progress we are making with Benetton and Zebre.
“In Dublin in the first half we did not do what we expected, but it is important for us on Friday to learn from our mistakes and show our game-plan, show off our rugby throughout the game.
“For us, Friday is a new opportunity. We must focus on ourselves, and I hope we can offer ourselves and our fans a performance to be proud of.”
O’Shea has made three changes from the side beaten by Ireland, with prop Andrea Lovotti and hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini both gaining starts, while Maxime Mbanda features in the backrow, packing down alongside Sebastian Negri and skipper Sergio Parisse, who wins his 132nd cap.
France have beaten Italy five times in succession, including a World Cup victory, but Les Bleus will be wary of Six Nations defeats against them in 2011 and 2013.
The other switches are in midfield, where Toulon powerhouse Mathieu Bastareaud partners Geoffrey Doumayrou, and at lock, with Paul Gabrillagues featuring alongside Sebastien Vahaamahina.
FRANCE: 15-Hugo Bonneval, 14-Benjamin Fall, 13-Mathieu Bastareaud, 12-Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11-Remy Grosso, 10-Lionel Beauxis, 9-Maxime Machenaud, 8-Marco Tauleigne, 7-Yacouba Camara, 6-Wenceslas Lauret, 5-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4-Paul Gabrillagues, 3-Rabah Slimani, 2-Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1-Jefferson Poirot. Replacements: 16-Adrien Pelissie, 17-Dany Priso, 18-Cedate Gomes Sa, 19-Romain Taofifenua, 20-Kelian Galletier, 21-Baptiste Couilloud, 22-Francois Trinh-Duc, 23-Gael Fickou.
ITALY: 15-Matteo Minozzi, 14-Tommaso Benvenuti, 13-Tommaso Boni, 12-Tomasso Castello, 11-Mattia Bellini, 10-Tomasso Allan, 9-Marcello Violi, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain), 7-Maxime Mbanda, 6-Sebastian Negri, 5-Dean Budd, 4-Alessandro Zanni, 3-Simone Ferrari, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1-Andrea Lovotti. Replacements: 16-Luca Bigi, 17-Nicola Quaglio, 18-Tiziano Pasquali, 19-George Fabio Biagi, 20-Federico Ruzza, 21-Edoardo Gori, 22-Carlo Canna, 23-Jayden Hayward.