FRANCE are facing Italy as they look to make a big statement of intent after finishing second in last year’s campaign.
The French pushed England close in 2020, finishing level on 18 points last year but failed to beat Ireland by a big enough scoreline to lift the trophy on the final day.
And they’ll be out for the bonus point at a minimum against the Azzurri, who haven’t won a Six Nations fixture since 2015.
- Six Nations betting tips and free bets as England eye tournament defence
- Italy vs France kicks off at 2.15pm – 3.15pm in Rome.
- Italy vs France is live on ITV1 in the UK.
- To stream the game live, head to the ITV Hub.
- ITV is free for all UK viewers with a TV licence.
- France 2 will be showing all the Six Nations matches in France with DMAX doing likewise in Italy.
- Italy team: Jacopo Trulla, Luca Sperandio, Marco Zanon, Juan Ignacio Brex, Montanna Ioane, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney, Cherif Traorè, Luca Bigi (c), Marco Riccioni, Marco Lazzaroni, David Sisi, Sebastian Negri, Johan Meyer, Michele Lamaro
- France team: Brice Dulin, Teddy Thomas, Arthur Vincent, Gaël Fickou, Gabin Villière, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont, Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon (c), Grégory Alldritt
Italy’s scrum-half and fly-half partnership Stephen Varney and Paolo Garibisi are just nineteen and twenty years old respectively.
It’s a gamble from Franco Smith to name such an inexperienced side, especially as Italy have not won a Six Nations game since 2015.
Here’s a reminder of how the two sides line-up from the start for the 2021 Six Nations opener.
Kick off is just twenty-five minutes away!
Gabin Villiere makes his Six Nations debut today on the wing for Les Bleus.
Villiere has played Sevens rugby for his country, but has now made the switch to XV-a-side.
Italy centre Ignacio Brex wins his first cap for the Azzurri, and number eight Michele Lamaro is in the starting side for the first time.
Last year’s Six Nations top scorer Romian Ntamack misses out as he recovers from a double jaw fracture.
That means talented 22-year-old fly-half Matthieu Jalibert starts in his place, making his fourth consecutive start for Les Bleus.
Jalibert has impressed with his performances in the starting side, and will be hoping to stake a claim for the number ten jersey today.
Italy fly-half Paolo Garbisi was the first player born after the Six Nations began to score in the tournament in last year’s defeat to Ireland.
France head coach Fabien Galthie keeping an eye on the warm-ups at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
LAST TIME OUT
The two sides faced off in the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup, with France running out emphatic 36-5 winners in Paris.
The score was 10-5 at half time, before three tries in the space of eight second-half minutes meant France ran out comfortable winners.
Despite not winning a game in the Six Nations since 2015, Italy made only 51 handling errors in the 2020 tournament, the fewest of any team.
LAST YEAR’S TOURNAMENT
Just three months after the 2020 edition of the Six Nations concluded, the tournament gets back underway today.
England won last year’s tournament, beating France to the title on points difference.
Les Bleus are one of the favourites this year, and will be looking to get off to a strong start against an inexperienced Italian side.
No team scored more tries than France’s seventeen in last year’s Championship.
Their six tries from kick returns was also the highest in the tournament.
Head coach Fabien Galthie will be hoping for more swashbuckling rugby from his side today.
The visitors have arrived at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, wearing some snazzy attire ahead of kick off.
Kick off is exactly one hour away!
Here’s the fixtures for the opening weekend of the Six Nations.
Italy vs France gets the tournament underway in just over an hour’s time, before England host Scotland at Twickenham later this afternoon.
Opening weekend comes to an end tomorrow as Ireland travel to Cardiff to face Wales at the Principality Stadium.
ITALY TEAM NEWS
Franco Smith puts his faith in youth today, with ten of the starting side having less than ten caps to their name.
Luca Sperandio is the most experienced in the Italian backline, and he only has eight caps.
Stephen Varney starts at scrum half, with the 19-year-old opting to play for Italy rather than Wales due to his Italian mother.
FRANCE TEAM NEWS
France star man Romain Ntamack misses out through injury, meaning Matthieu Jalibert starts at fly half today.
Virimi Vakatawa is also injured for the French, so Arthur Vincent partners Gael Fickou in the centres.
And this is what France head coach Fabien Galthie had to say:
“All the players that we are following create a competition which pushes to the squad forwards.
“In this team and this squad, there is a lot of competition which can give us some headaches.
“Nevertheless we keep working on the collective experience every team, but the team is a year older now so we want to keep growing together.”
Here’s what Italy head coach Franco Smith had to say ahead of this afternoon’s Six Nations opener.
“We will show courage in taking on a France team that showed its quality during the last Guinness Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup.
“We are following our growing process to continue introducing the new generations – I cannot wait to start a Championship as important and fascinating as the Guinness Six Nations.”
FRANCE STARTING XV
1 Baille, 2 Marchand, 3 Haouas, 4 Le Roux, 5 Willemse, 6 Cretin, 7 Ollivon, 8 Alldritt
9 Dupont, 10 Jalibert, 11 Villiere, 12 Fickou, 13 Vincent, 14 Thomas, 15 Dulin
ITALY STARTING XV
1 Traore, 2 Bigi (c), 3 Riccioni, 4 Lazzaroni, 5 Sisi, 6 Negri, 7 Meyer, 8 Lamaro
9 Varney, 10 Garbisi, 11 Ioane, 12 Brex, 13 Zanon, 14 Sperandio, 15 Trulla
It feels like the last Six Nations campaign only just ended, but the 2021 tournament is already open us.
The opening fixture sees Italy take on France in Rome, before England face Scotland later this afternoon, and Wales vs Scotland rounds off the first weekend of fixtures tomorrow.
The French come into the tournament in fine form having finished second in last year’s edition, and also reached the Autumn Nations Cup final in December before losing to England.
Italy have recorded two Six Nations wins over their European neighbours in their history, but the most recent of those was all the way back in 2013.
The Azurri did register two wins in three years against the French, also triumphing in 2011.
The two nations faced off twice in 2020, with France running out 35-22 winners in the Six Nations clash, before a thumping 36-5 victory in the Autumn Nations Cup.
Kick off is at 2.15pm and the team news is coming up next.