Match Preview – France – Italy



France's head coach Fabien Galthie lost a friend, former teammate and former player he coached in Christophe Dominici.  Les Bleus plays Saturday in honor of 'Domi'

France’s head coach Fabien Galthie lost a friend, former teammate and former player he coached in Christophe Dominici. Les Bleus plays Saturday in honor of ‘Domi’

France will mourn the loss of former star-wing Christophe Dominici amid a cathedral-like silence, before focusing on Italy’s challenge with an improvised squad in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup.

The players will wear his nickname Domi on their left sleeve beneath a giant photo of him at the Stade de France, where a minute of silence will be held.

“You don’t meet a man like him twice,” said former captain of France, Pascal Pape, who was close to Dominici. French coach Fabien Galthie has also lost an old friend and teammate.

Before kick-off, the teams will pause to commemorate Dominici, who died on Tuesday at the age of 48.

Former French wing Christophe Dominici died on Tuesday at the age of 48

Former French wing Christophe Dominici died on Tuesday at the age of 48

Dominicans’ death caused shock waves from rugby and reached the benches of the French Parliament, where National Assembly politicians stood unsolicited and applauded him in tribute.

Due to the corona virus, there will be no audience in the 81,000-seat stadium to say goodbye to Dominici.

His many friends in rugby included the current French hierarchy: Federal President Bernard Laporte – the former coach of France with whom Dominici shared a close relationship; Galthie and his assistant Raphael Ibanez – all teammates during an era of glory that defined French flair in brash style.

Galthie also played with Dominici at Stade Francais before coaching him there.

Dominici scored 25 test tries in a glorious decade with the national team, culminating in New Zealand’s sensational setbacks at the 1999 and 2007 Rugby World Cups.

“We’ve lost a friend. We’re struggling, struggling to make it happen,” Laporte said Wednesday. “I told them: I only wish you one thing, that you have the same career as him.”

On Saturday, Galthie will have to do his best to focus on winning with 13 substitutions after their 22-15 win in Scotland last weekend, including five new faces and a peloton with barely a dozen caps.

The changes came as a result of an agreement on rotating players between the French rugby federation and French league clubs, limiting players to three of the six internationals.

France's first-choice players such as Virimi Vakatawa are absent due to a player rotation agreement with the Top 14

France’s first-choice players such as Virimi Vakatawa are absent due to a player rotation agreement with the Top 14

“The squad has limited experience, but that’s the deal. We knew it and we’ll do it,” said Galthie. “At the level at which we play, everyone has to be ready anytime, anywhere.”

Scrum half Baptiste Serin is one of only three players with 20 caps or more, replacing Charles Ollivon as captain. “It is precisely because he is so dedicated that we gave him this role,” said Galthie. “He wants to lead this team.”

Scrum half Baptiste Serin will lead a very inexperienced French team on Saturday

Scrum half Baptiste Serin will lead a very inexperienced French team on Saturday

France is second in Group B behind Scotland – as the Scots have already taken a win for their canceled test with Fiji – and need the win to send themselves through to the playoff final on December 6, where they will likely face England in Twickenham.

The Azzurri change three

Italy has recalled winger Luca Sperandio for the first time in nearly two years when they made three changes to their Autumn Nations Cup squad to play against France in Paris.

Sperandio, 24, who won the last of his six international matches against France in Rome in March 2019, replaces Mattia Bellini.

Braam Steyn moves up to number 8 instead of the injured Jake Polledri with Maxime Mbanda and Johan Meyer on the flanks. Mbanda will start a match for Italy for the first time since last year’s World Cup, after Sebastien Negri withdrew with an adductor injury.

Blackberry Steyn has shifted to No. 8 for Italy, but his back partners Jake Polledri and Sebastien Negri are both injured

Blackberry Steyn has shifted to No. 8 for Italy, but his back partners Jake Polledri and Sebastien Negri are both injured

Born in Moldova but an Italian junior international lock, Cristian Stoian is one of two capped players on the bench, along with flanker Michele Lamaro.

Italy last played in the Autumn Nations Cup a fortnight ago, losing 28-17 at home against Scotland, but their second game against Fiji was canceled due to massive COVID-19 infections in the Pacific Islanders’ camp.

“We had extra days to better prepare for this meeting,” said coach Franco Smith, citing the team.

“Last week’s cancellation has increased our desire to take the field against France on Saturday.

“It will be an intense competition where we will have the opportunity to see other interesting young people at work as we continue our way to expand the foundation we have at our disposal and build a DNA,” said Smith.

Italy's head coach Franco Smith and captain Luca Bigi know a ringside victory is needed soon

Italy’s head coach Franco Smith and captain Luca Bigi know a ringside victory is needed soon

History will be made when Nigel Owens becomes the first official to referee 100 tests. The 49-year-old Welshman whistled his first test 17 years ago and refereed four Rugby World Cups.

Team News

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Baptiste Serin (c); 1 Rodrigue Neti, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 4 Killian Geraci, 5 Baptiste Pesenti, 6 Cameron Woki, 7 Sekou Macalou, 8 Anthony Jelonch.

Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolingar, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Cyril Cazeaux, 20 Swan Rebbadj, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Louis Carbonel, 23 Yoram Moufana.

Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Jacopo Trulla, 13 Marco Zanon, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Marcello Violi; 1 Danilo Fischetti, 2 Luca Bigi (c), 3 Giosue Zilocchi, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Niccolo Cannone, 6 Maxime Mbanda, 7 Johan Meyer, 8 Braam Steyn.

Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Simone Ferrari, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Cristian Stoian, 20 Michele Lamoro, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Tomasso Allan, 23 Federico Mori.




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