French game can still have huge bearing

THOUGH the main focus of the final weekend will be in Cardiff, France’s game with Italy could play a major part in the outcome of the championship.

France still have a slim chance of retaining the title but will need to win by at least 42 points while hoping Ireland beat Wales by 13 points.

They may not have been on top form so far but France have shown glimpses of the brilliance they are known for. And Italy must win if they are to avoid the wooden spoon.

France have displayed their typical inconsistencies in this year’s Six

Nations with poor displays in the wins against Scotland and England while impressing despite the defeat to Wales. And last time out, France showed their class to end Ireland’s hopes of a Grand Slam in Dublin.

“We mustn’t dream too much of winning the championship,” coach Bernard Laporte said. “The Welsh did what they had to do to win the championship and I congratulate them. As far as we are concerned, we will be happy if we can win playing well.”

Laporte had decided to stick with the team that defeated the Irish but his preparations for the match were disrupted in midweek when talented centre Benoit Baby was banned for four-weeks for head-butting Brian O’Driscoll.

Baby’s place will be taken by Perpignan’s David Marty while Damien Traille, who has recovered from a foot injury, is named on the bench.

Italy have been disappointing so far and have only been able to dominate opponents in patches. “Kicks create a mental state that is decisive in matches and change results,” said Italy team manager Marco Bollesan.

“If you can turn possession into points with successful kicks confidence spreads in the team, but if you fail then you are immediately on the back foot. But you cannot put our defeats solely down to missed kicks.

ITALY: G Peens; A Masi, S Picone, L Nitoglia, K Robertson; L Orquera, A Troncon; A Lo Cicero, F Ongaro, S Perugini, M Bortolami, S Dellape, D Dal Maso, A Persico, S Parisse.

Replacements: R Pedrazzi, L Castrogiovanni, CA Del Fava, S Orlando, P Griffen, C Festuccia, R De Marigny.

FRANCE: J Laharrague; C Dominici, Y Jauzion, D Marty, C Heymans; Y Delaigue, D Yachvili; S Marconnet, S Bruno, N Mas; F Pelous, J Thion; S Betsen, Y Nyanga, J Bonnaire.

Replacements: W Servat, P De Villiers, P Pape, G Lamboley, P Mignoni, F Michalak, D Traille.

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