Match Preview


Cyril Baille Italy
France welcome Italy to Lille in Round 3 of the Guinness Men's Six Nations with the aim of building some momentum in their 2024 campaign.

After their opening defeat to Ireland, Les Bleus battled past Scotland in Edinburgh to get up and running.

But with four points from their first two games, Fabien Galthié’s side will need to lay down a marker against Gli Azzurri if they are to be considered true contenders, while of course relying on help from other sides in stopping reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland.

Italy were the most recent side to suffer at Irish hands, beaten 36-0 in Dublin, following their narrow opening defeat at home to England.

The last time the sides met in the Championship, Italy came close to a remarkable comeback, going down 29-24 in Rome.

But France were much more convincing winners at the World Cup in Lyon, and Gonzalo Quesada will hope to put those memories to bed as he seeks a first win in charge of Gli Azzurri.

Where to watch:

Sunday’s match will be shown on ITV 1 for UK viewers, while those in Ireland can watch on RTÉ 2, with the game kicking off at 3pm GMT. Supporters in France will be able to follow the game on France 2, while in Italy it will be shown on Tv8 and Sky Sport Uno.

Team News

France have made two personnel changes and one further positional switch from the side that won 20-16 in Edinburgh.

With Grégory Alldritt out injured, François Cros moves across to No.8, while Paul Boudehent steps into the starting line-up at blindside flanker. Completing the back row is Charles Ollivon, who will also take over the captaincy from Alldritt.

The other change sees Posolo Tuilagi given a first Test start at just 19, having impressed off the bench in the first two rounds of the Championship. He replaces Paul Gabrillagues, who drops out of the 23.

On the bench, Romain Taofifenua makes his first appearance of the campaign and is set to win his 50th cap, as is starting loosehead Cyril Baille, while Esteban Abadie could make his debut after also being included.

Italy have made six changes to the side that was beaten in Dublin including a first start of the campaign for Federico Mori, who gets the nod at inside centre as Tommaso Menoncello shifts to the wing.

Martin Page-Relo comes in at scrum-half in the other change to the backline, while there are two new faces in the back row, Riccardo Favretto at blindside flanker with Ross Vintcent earning a first Test start at No.8.

The remaining changes come in the front row where Giacomo Nicotera starts at hooker with Giosuè Zilocchi taking over at tighthead prop.

Matteo Canali is set for his debut on the bench with Leonardo Marin back for his first appearance of the campaign.

What they said

France coach Fabien Galthié said: “The Six Nations is a bit like a 400m. You start sprinting and you have to accelerate on every bend. We know Italy well, they are Latin like us, coached by Gonzalo Quesada. The fact that there are quite a few players who play in France in their squad is no coincidence. They will want to produce their best rugby, but so will we. We want to play better and also defend better. Playing better also means without the ball. We want to be more disciplined, for example.”

Italy coach Gonzalo Quesada said: “We have adapted the team for the game on Sunday while dealing with a few injuries. Our set-piece wasn’t a strength against England or Ireland so we will have to keep working on that. France will want to be very physical but we have to play our game and impose our game plan.”

Key battle – François Cros v Ross Vintcent

There will be two new players in the No.8 jerseys in Lille, with François Cros moving from the flank to fill the void left by Grégory Alldritt, while Ross Vintcent gets his first Test start as Michele Lamaro moves back to openside.

Cros is something of an unsung hero in the French back row, a relentless workhorse who does a bit of everything. With Alldritt missing, he may be required to carry more than in previous games, although the decision to start Tuilagi in the second row may lessen that load slightly.

For Italy, Vintcent’s path to the top has gone very quickly, but it should come as little surprise given his performances for Exeter Chiefs this season.

Still only 21, he will have a big role to play, particularly as a carrier with Lorenzo Cannone still out.

Stat attack

  • France have won 45 of their 48 meetings with Italy including their last 14 in a row, with their 94% win rate their best against any nation they have faced 5+ times. France’s biggest-ever win over Italy came in their last meeting, 60-7 at the Rugby World Cup.

  • France have lost their last two Tests on home soil, they have not lost three in a row at home since 1998-99. They have not lost consecutive home matches in the Six Nations since 2012-13.

  • Italy have moved the ball at least 10 metres wider than the previous ruck on 52% of their phases, the highest of any side in the Championship, while France have attacked on the blindside 22% of the time, nearly twice as much as the next most (Ireland on 12%).

  • France are the only team with a 100% record at scrum-time in this year’s Championship (6/6) while they have made the most maul metres per game (18) and more metres per maul (3.6) of any team.

  • Damian Penaud scored his 36th Test try against Ireland and is just two short of Serge Blanco’s all-time France record. He has scored four tries in five Tests against Italy.

Fantasy watch

With points on offer for every ten metres made while carrying, there is plenty of appeal in throwing Posolo Tuilagi straight into the starting line-up, particularly with Grégory Alldritt absent. You sense that Tuilagi will be fed the ball plenty while on the pitch, and he is also a surprisingly good jackal threat which could also rack up points. Not bad for just 10.3 stars. At the more expensive end of the scale, Damian Penaud scored twice when the teams met at the World Cup and having not crossed in Scotland, will no doubt be keen to get back on track against Italy.

For Italy, at just 11.5 stars, Tommaso Menoncello remains a very cheap option, and returns to the wing for this encounter. He scored on his debut as a teenager against France in Italy’s last away meeting with Les Bleus and could be a handy option to do so again this Sunday.


France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Maxime Lucu; 1 Cyril Baille, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 3 Uini Atonio, 4 Cameron Woki, 5 Posolo Tuilagi, 6 Paul Boudehent, 7 Charles Ollivon (c), 8 François Cros

Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Esteban Abadie, 22 Nolann Le Garrec, 23 Yoram Moefana

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Tommaso Menoncello, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Federico Mori, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Martin Page-Relo; 1 Danilo Fischetti, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 5 Federico Ruzza, 6 Riccardo Favretto, 7 Michele Lamaro (c), 8 Ross Vintcent

Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Matteo Canali, 20 Andrea Zambonin, 21 Manuel Zuliani, 22 Stephen Varney, 23 Leonardo Marin