Six Nations preview: France and Italy field new-look sides

France head coach Guy Noves has named Guilhem Guirado as his new skipper. FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

France vs. Italy
Saturday, kick-off 15:25
Stade de France, Paris

It's a new era for French rugby as former Toulouse coach Guy Noves takes the helm for his first Six Nations match in charge. He has spoken of a need to bring back some Gallic flair to the national side after Les Bleus were thrashed 62-13 in their last outing -- a Rugby World Cup humiliation by the mighty All Blacks. Italy are unlikely to cause Noves too much of a headache at the Stade de France, but with talisman Sergio Parisse returning from injury, they will at least prove committed opponents.

Team news

It will be a day for debutants at the Stade de France on Saturday. Noves has included four uncapped players in his first French starting XV, with Lock Paul Jedrasiak, scrum-half Sebastien Bezy, centre Jonathan Danty and sevens star Virimi Vakatawa all set to play. Uncapped trio Camille Chat, Jefferson Poirot and Yacouba Camara are on the bench, as Noves seeks a clean break from the crash-ball era of Philippe Saint-Andre.

Four is also the number of debutants in Italy's starting line-up, with back-three duo David Odiete and Mattia Bellini included alongside front-row colleagues Andrea Lovotti and Ornel Gega. There's more inexperience among the replacements, with uncapped prop Matteo Zanusso and No.8 Dries van Schalkwyk warming the bench.

France: Medard, Bonneval, Fickou, Danty, Vakatawa, Plisson, Bezy; Ben Arous, Guirado (c), Slimani, Jedrasiak, Maestri, Chouly, Lauret, Picamoles

Replacements: Chat, Atonio, Poirot, Flanquart, Camara, Machenaud, Doussain, Mermoz

Italy: Odiete, L Sarto, Campagnaro, Garcia, Bellini, Canna, Gori; Lovotti, Gega, Cittadini, Biagi, Fuser, Minto, Zanni, Parisse (c)

Replacements: Giazzon, Zanusso, Castrogiovanni, Bernarbo, van Schalkwyk, Palazzani, Haimona, McLean

Key head-to-head

When Sebastien Bezy lines up to win his first cap for France, opposite him will be a rare Italian talent. Edoardo Gori is an authoritative figure who will be key to Italy's attempts to marry their new-look pack and backs division. Bezy has a similar task, but without the international experience of his still-young opponent, he will have to learn quickly if his side is to gel.

Key stats

* France have lost just once on Six Nations opening weekend in the last six years -- to Italy in Rome in 2013, the year Les Bleus went on to take the wooden spoon.

* Italy have won two of their last three Tests, against Canada and Romania at last year's World Cup, but they shipped 32 points in their Pool D defeat by France.

* Italy have beaten France at home just once -- a 40-32 victory at Grenoble in the final of the 1997 FIRA Championship.

* Form guide: France -- LLWWW. Italy -- WLWLL


Unibet has France listed as overwhelming favourites at odds of 1/20, with Italy priced at a long 11/1.

Fantasy player to watch

Jules Plisson. If past results are anything to go by, France could be racking up the points against Italy, and the man kicking the goals will be taking the lion's share of fantasy points too.


Both nations are sporting unfamiliar line-ups, but France have the pedigree to claim a home victory by 20 points.