FRANCE COACH Philippe Saint-Andre has picked a hugely experienced team to take on Italy in their opening RBS 6 Nations match on Saturday.
The starting XV contains 605 caps – and there’s another 236 on the bench! – but there is one uncapped player who will make his Test debut at the Stade de France. Wesley Fofana will partner Aurelien Rougerie in midfield – the first time in history that both France centres have come from the Clermont Auvergne club.
Saint-Andre is full of praise for Fofana, saying: “He brings enthusiasm and freshness. We know his qualities, his speed. He must show his qualities, enjoy himself and show what he does for his club.”
Captain Thierry Dusautoir and tighthead Nicolas Mas will both win their 50th Test caps while loosehead Vincent Debaty will make his Six Nations debut. His only previous Test appearance came against Romania in June 2006.
Dusautoir forms a powerful back row with Julien Bonnaire and Louis Picamoles – Biarritz No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy pushed onto the bench – as the French attempt to avenge last year’s historical defeat by Italy.
Dimitri Yachvili is given the nod at scrum-half ahead of Morgan Parra with Francois Trinh-Duc in the No 10 jersey while Italy should be wary of an explosive back three featuring Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard.
FRANCE TEAM TO PLAY ITALY ON SATURDAY 4 FEBRUARY AT STADE DE FRANCE, KICK-OFF 2.30pm
Maxime Medard; Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu; Francois Trinh-Duc, Dimitri Yachvili; Vincent Debaty, William Servat, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Pape, Lionel Nallet, Thierry Dusautoir, Julien Bonnaire, Louis Picamoles.
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Jean-Baptiste Poux, Yoann Maestri, Imanol Harinordoquy, Morgan Parra, Lionel Beauxis, Maxime Mermoz.