Sevens star Vakatawa set for France debut

France’s Sevens sensation Virimi Vakatawa will make his Test debut in tomorrow’s Six Nations opener against Italy in Paris.

Sevens star Vakatawa set for France debut

The Fiji-born wing will chase Olympic glory with France’s Sevens outfit in Rio this summer, but has been drafted into Guy Noves’ first Test XV as head coach of Les Bleus.

Vakatawa spent two years with Ronan O’Gara’s Racing 92 before opting to join the Sevens circuit in 2013, where he has made his name as a powerful and pacy try-scorer.

Triple European champions Toulon are understood to be weighing up whether to add the 23-year-old to their ranks for next term, but new France boss Noves has already made his move.

“He has shown great qualities in Sevens rugby,” said Noves of a player who has not played any 15-man rugby for almost three years. “I don’t see any problem with taking him.”

Italy will aim to kick-start a new era by fielding four debutants for Paris. Front-row duo Andrea Lovotti and Ornel Gega, full-back David Odiete, and wing Mattia Bellini will win their first Test caps at the Stade de France.

FRANCE (v Italy, Paris):

M Medard (Toulouse); H Bonneval (Stade Francais), G Fickou (Toulouse), J Danty (Stade Francais), V Vakatawa (France Rugby Federation); J Plisson (Stade Francais), S Bezy (Toulouse); E Ben Arous (Racing 92), G Guirado (Toulon, capt), R Slimani (Stade Francais), P Jedrasiak (Clermont), Y Maestri (Toulouse), W Lauret (Racing 92), D Chouly (Clermont), L Picamoles (Toulouse).

Replacements:

C Chat (Racing 92), U Atonio (La Rochelle), J Poirot (Bordeaux), A Flanquart (Stade Francais), Y Camara (Toulouse), M Machenaud (Racing 92), J Doussain (Toulouse), M Mermoz (Toulon).

ITALY:

D Odiete (Mogliano), L Sarto (Zebre), M Campagnaro (Exeter), G Garcia (Zebre), M Bellini (Padova), C Canna (Zebre), E Gori (Treviso), A Lovotti (Zebre), O Gega (Treviso), L Cittadini (Wasps), G Fabio Biagi (Zebre), M Fuser, F Minto, A Zanni (all Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Francais).

Replacements:

D Giazzon, M Zanusso (both Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Racing 92), V Bernabo, A Van Schalkwyk, G Palazzani, K Haimona (all Zebre), L McLean (Treviso).

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