HomeCricketFrance v Italy: Match preview & BBC coverage

France v Italy: Match preview & BBC coverage


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France wing Damian Penaud scored his 36th Test try against Ireland and needs two more to equal Serge Blanco’s national record
Venue: Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille Date: Sunday, 25 February Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Radio commentary on BBC Sport website and app; text commentary on BBC Sport website and app; watch highlights on Six Nations Rugby Special from 18:00 GMT

France come into Sunday’s Six Nations match in Lille seeking to build momentum after their controversial win over Scotland in round two.

Les Bleus have won their past 14 meetings with Italy, including a record 60-7 triumph at last year’s World Cup.

Italy will feel they have a point to prove after failing to register a point in Dublin two weeks ago.

They have suffered seven successive Six Nations defeats, but their last victory did come away from home in 2022.

The Azzurri stunned Wales in Cardiff two years ago – their only championship win in the last 44 attempts.

In a late withdrawal for the hosts, Matthis Lebel comes in for the injured Louis Bielle-Biarrey on the wing.

Team news

France: Paul Boudehent replaces injured skipper Gregory Alldritt in the back row and 19-year-old lock Posolo Tuilagi makes his first Test start as Les Bleus make two changes to their starting XV.

Paul Gabrillagues is dropped from the squad altogether while Charles Ollivon takes the captain’s armband. Flanker Esteban Abadie is set to make his debut from the bench.

Italy: Head coach Gonzalo Quesada makes six changes to his side following the defeat by Ireland.

Giacomo Nicotera and Giosue Zilocchi come into the front row, while Riccardo Favretto and Ross Vintcent are part of a back-row reshuffle that involves captain Michele Lamaro moving from number eight to open-side flanker.

Scrum-half Martin Page-Relo starts a Six Nations match for the first time and inside centre Federico Mori returns to the starting XV for the first time in almost two years.

Commentator’s notes

Sara Orchard: The 60-7 humbling by Les Bleus over the Azzurri at the Rugby World Cup was an unashamed raucous French party in Lyon.

Skip forward five months and while France are still favourites, no-one is expecting them to put 50-plus points on Italy this time out.

However, it’s the bulk of Posolo Tuilagi, making his first start, that will be causing Italian nightmares, with the visiting pack nearly 100kg lighter. Sprinkle on top the fact the French pack have a 100% scrum rate from their opening two games and the forwards could have a significant impact on how this match is executed. Any knock-ons could prove extremely costly.

View from both camps

France head coach Fabien Galthie: “When you compete in the Six Nations, it’s like a 400m race, you start by sprinting and you have to accelerate at each turn.

“We want to play better and specifically defend better. Playing better also means without the ball. We need to be more disciplined. We must first be strong on the basics: solidarity, commitment and courage.”

Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada: “Every game is a new opportunity to continue on the path of growth. We know how the last match went and it was useful to work on certain areas of the game.

“We want to show the best version of ourselves. We have heart, character and determination. All these characteristics must be put on the field against a team that is tactically and physically strong.”


France: 15-Ramos, 14-Penaud, 13-Fickou, 12-Danty, 11-Lebel; 10-Jalibert, 9-Lucu; 1-Baille, 2-Mauvaka, 3-Atonio, 4-Woki, 5-Tuilagi, 6-Boudehent, 7-Ollivon (c), 8-Cros.

Replacements: 16-Marchand, 17-S. Taofifenua, 18-Aldegheri, 19-R. Taofifenua, 20-Roumat, 21-Abadie, 22-Le Garrec, 23-Moefana.

Italy: 15-Capuozzo, 14-Menoncello, 13-Brex, 12-Mori, 11-Ioane; 10-P. Garbisi, 9-Page-Relo; 1-Fischetti, 2-Nicotera, 3-Zilocchi, 4-Cannone, 5-Ruzza, 6-Favretto, 7-Lamaro (c), 8-Vintcent.

Replacements: 16-Lucchesi, 17-Spagnolo, 18-Ferrari, 19-Canali, 20-Zambonin, 21-Zuliani, 22-Varney, 23-Marin.

364 - the number of successful tackles made by Italy in this Six Nations. France are the next nearest side with 301

Match facts


  • France have won 45 of their 48 Test matches against Italy, including the past 14 in a row.
  • Les Bleus have triumphed in all 12 of their home Six Nations fixtures versus the Azzurri, with 11 of those victories coming by a margin of 10 or more points.


  • France have won 10 of their last 12 Six Nations matches, with both defeats coming against Ireland.
  • Fabien Galthie’s side have lost their previous two home Tests against South Africa and Ireland – they’ve not lost three in a row since 1998-99.
  • Damian Penaud needs two tries to equal Serge Blanco’s French Test record of 38; he’s scored four tries in five appearances against Italy.


  • Italy have lost 43 of their past 44 Six Nations fixtures, including the previous seven in a row.
  • However, their last two victories in this tournament have both come on the road; a memorable 22-21 win v Wales in 2022 and a 22-19 triumph over Scotland at Murrayfield in 2015.

Match officials

Referee: Christophe Ridley (England)

Touch judges: Matthew Carley (England) & Craig Evans (Wales)

TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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