France coach Guy Novès has warned his players that they are in no position to act high and mighty against Italy in Rome on Saturday.
Defeats to Ireland and England either side of a win over Scotland put France second bottom in the Six Nations heading into the fourth round of matches, with only the winless Italians beneath them.
They have Italy and Wales left to play, and a slip-up at the Stadio Olimpico would be another sporting embarrassment for France, following Paris St Germain's capitulation against Barcelona.
Novès said the dramatic Champions League soccer result was a “life lesson” and added that “failure is part of the game”. However, he is determined his players should not trip up similarly and so is directing them to show professionalism as they chase their second win of the championship.
“We don’t have the means to boast, to be a bit like England: to play Italy and look down on them,” Novès said.
“Our results don’t let us do that. Therefore, I hope that the players are well aware that Italy have got this match marked down. That’s normal, especially after their performance in England. Nothing is written in advance, and it will be a very tough match like the others.”
Novès, speaking in his pre-match press conference, also explained why he has handed a debut to young Brive flanker Fabien Sanconnie.
Backrower Sanconnie (22) replaces Bernard Le Roux in one of four changes to the starting line-up that lost to Ireland. Le Roux is named on the bench.
Charles Ollivon’s unavailability due to a sprained ankle left Sanconnie as the best option if Novès decided on a change.
“We needed someone of the same profile. We’ve talked about him for a while. There’s no good or bad time to throw him in. But we know he’ll bring the enthusiasm of youth,” said Novès.
Novès said Le Roux would have the chance during the match, as a replacement, to make up for a disappointing game against Ireland.
Italy flanker Simone Favaro remains confident the Azzurri are moving in the right direction as a team. They gave England a scare at Twickenham last time out, when they led at half-time before Eddie Jones's side eventually ran out convincing winners.
With former Ireland player and Harlequins boss Conor O’Shea now in charge, Favaro, who plays his club rugby for Glasgow, believes results can turn around.
“It’s much easier to start from victories than defeats, that’s natural,” he said on federugby.it.
“The path that we have taken, we know it’s long. Once we’ve found the right structure, I don’t see why we shouldn’t become successful: we have done in so many sports in Italy, and we will do in rugby.”