Azzuri To Upset Flagging French
Italy v France
France travel to Rome off the back of one of their worst most recent Six Nations campaigns. Can Italy, after their victory over Scotland, go one further?
Playing well without having anything to show for it was the story of Italy’s 2014, and this year’s 6 Nations campaign had started in similar vein. They began with a brave but losing effort against Ireland in Rome, and then they gave England an early scare at Twickenham, before being overrun. But they finally got the reward their endeavour merited with a win in Scotland last time, thanks to a last-minute penalty try.
France have continued to put in some poor performances under Philippe Saint-Andre in recent months, losing to Wales, Ireland and Argentina, and haven’t been too convincing in the 6 Nations so far. They couldn’t score a try in their narrow victory over Scotland, never looked like beating Ireland in a bruising game in Dublin, and failed to make an impact against Wales at the Stade de France, losing 20-13.
The co-operation of Italy’s two Pro12 clubs, Treviso and Zebre, has enabled most of Italy’s squad to have two weeks to recover from their exertions at Murrayfield, although there are a couple of significant injury problems. Winger Leonardo Sarto is doubtful, and captain Sergio Parisse pulled a calf muscle against Scotland, but is expected to recover in time.
Rory Kockott is fit again so comes into the French squad and will presumably slot straight in at scrum-half. Centres Wesley Fofana and Remi Lamerat are injured, so Maxime Mermox has been called up to give Saint-Andre more back-line options. Prop Nicolas Mas also returns.
Head to Head
Italy have only won four of their sixty-five games against France, and only two of their fifteen 6 Nations encounters. The average margin of defeat in their last twelve games was just over 22. Last year’s game in Paris was typical of many of their matches. A stubborn Italian side battled hard but lost 30-10, their eighth consecutive defeat in the 6 Nations on French soil.
But their record in Rome is slightly better.
They still have a losing record against the French, but they have managed a couple of famous victories this decade.
The first was in 2011, when two Mirco Bergamasco penalties in the last ten minutes snatched a 22-21 Italian victory.
The Italians repeated their efforts two years ago. In a stirring second half performance, they overturned an 18-13 deficit with a try from Martin Castrogiovanni and held on to win 23-18.
France will be desperate, not just to grab a second win ahead of their final game with England, but also to avoid a third consecutive defeat in Rome. But from what we’ve seen so far, Italy will have nothing to fear. Saint-Andre’s side have shown precious little flair in this tournament and assuming Parisse is fit, the home side can prevail once again. Back Italy at 11/5 in the Match Betting market.