Lievremont names three new French caps for Italy clash

FRANCE head coach Marc Lievremont’s revolving door policy continued yesterday when he named three uncapped players in his starting XV for Sunday’s RBS Six Nations Championship clash with Italy.

Fabien Barcella, Ibrahim Diarra and Yann David are the latest players to benefit ahead of this weekend’s game with the Azzurri.

Auch prop Barcella, Montauban flanker Diarra and Bourgoin centre David, 19, will make their debuts from the off at the Stade de France, with Lievremont making a total of nine changes to the side which lost 24-13 to England last time out.

Two other uncapped players, hooker Guillem Guirado and scrum-half Julien Tomas, are set to pick up their first caps off the bench. Full-back Anthony Floch, who has one cap to his name, will make his first start for France and joins wingers Aurelien Rougerie and Julien Malzieu in an all-Clermont-Auvergne back three.

Toulouse centre Yannick Jauzion returns and will provide a steadying influence beside David in midfield while Dimitri Yachvili becomes Lievremont’s third scrum-half pick in four Six Nations matches.

In the pack, lock Jerome Thion and flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo are promoted from the bench to the starting team.

Lievremont defended his latest team selection by saying: “I see the incomprehension of the public, who think that we are devaluing the Six Nations and that the best players aren’t playing.

“That is not understanding our championship and players such as Fabien Barcella, Yann David or Ibrahim Diarra, to name just three. They are some of the best players in their position.

“These choices are fair and made after a lot of reflection. There really is coherence in our planning.”

After victories over Scotland and Ireland in the opening two rounds, the French were brought back down to earth after being overpowered by England.

Italy should not provide quite the same bite as the English, but their grizzled pack will be looking forward to getting their claws into a France set-piece that has left a lot to be desired so far this tournament.

Gloucester lock Marco Bortolami has been included in Italy’s starting XV. earning his first starting role in the 2008 Six Nations after recovering from neck and eye injuries.

Calvisano’s Alessandro Zanni replaces Mauro Bergamasco, unavailable through suspension. Kaine Robertson and Andrea Lo Cicero also return to the starting XV.

Meanwhile Scotland captain Mike Blair insists the Scots can shatter England’s title hopes and offer proof Frank Hadden’s team are moving in the right direction.

But Blair has warned the only way Scotland can win Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash will be by cutting out the sloppy mistakes which have been all too common in their campaign so far — and adding a clinical finish to their promising build-up play.

Blair will lead the Scots for the second successive game at Murrayfield on Saturday, as Hadden starts with regular skipper Jason White on the bench.

“It’s all about being a wee bit more clinical,” Blair said. “Ireland had five, maybe six, chances in the game against us and they scored five tries.

“We had opportunities but couldn’t quite convert that into points.”

Scoring tries has been a problem for Scotland. In their last six Test matches against top-flight opposition, they have only managed to cross the whitewash twice, the latest being Simon Webster’s try against Ireland.

However, Blair is confident the team are close to turning the corner.

“Once we score a few tries our confidence will increase. I think the team we’ve got this week is very capable of breaking down the English defence,” he said.

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