France coach Guy Noves has warned his players they are in no position to act high and mighty against Italy in Rome today.
Defeats to Ireland and England either side of a win over Scotland put France second bottom of the Six Nations standings heading into the fourth round of matches, with only the winless Italians beneath them. They have Italy first and then Wales left to play, and a slip-up at the Stadio Olimpico would be another sporting embarrassment for France, following Paris Saint-Germain's capitulation against Barcelona.
Noves said the surprising Champions League football result was a "life lesson" and added that "failure is part of the game", but he is determined his players should not trip up similarly, and so is directing them to show professionalism.
"We don't have the means to boast, to be a bit like England: to play Italy and look down on them," Noves 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."
Noves outlined why he has handed a debut to young Brive flanker Fabien Sanconnie. Back-rower Sanconnie, 22, replaces Bernard Le Roux in one of four alterations to the starting line-up that lost to Ireland. Charles Ollivon's unavailability due to a sprained ankle left Sanconnie as the outstanding option if Noves decided on a change.
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' side ran out convincing winners.
With former Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea now in charge, Favaro, who plays his club rugby for Glasgow, believes results can turn around. "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."
Italy (v France) - E Padovani; A Esposito, M Campagnaro, L McLean, G Venditti; C Canna, E Gori; S Parisse (capt), S Favaro, B Steyn; D van Schalkwyk, M Fuser; L Cittadini, L Ghiraldini, A Lovotti. Reps: T Dapice, S Panico, D Chistolini, G Biagi, M Mbanda, G Bronzini, T Benvenuti, L Sperandio.
FRANCE - B Dulin; N Nakaitaci, R Lamerat, G Fickou, V Vakatawa; C Lopez, B Serin; C Baille, G Guirado (capt), R Slimani; J Le Devedec, Y Maestri; F Sanconnie, K Gourdon, L Picamoles. Reps: C Tolofua, U Atonio, E Ben Arous, P Jedrasiak, B Le Roux, A Dupont, F Trinh-Duc, Y Huget.
Italy v France,
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