Italy change five for France
Last Updated: 07/02/14 5:04pm
Italy will field a much-changed side to the one that lost to Wales
Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made five changes to the starting XV that lost against Wales last weekend for their Six Nations game against France in Paris on Sunday.
The Italians go into the encounter at the Stade de France on the back of a 23-15 loss in Cardiff in their tournament opener.
Zebre's Tommaso Iannoni will replace Angelo Esposito at right wing and will earn his first Six Nations start against France.
Zebre centre Gonzalo Garcia returns to the Azzurri line-up after an eight-month absence and will start in place of Alberto Sgarbi, who has been omitted from the squad.
"If we play at the level we are capable of playing at, then we can get close to the top teams."
Biarritz lock Joshua Furno takes Marco Bortolami's place in Italy's second line while Michele Rizzo is relegated to the bench with Benetton Treviso team-mate Alberto De Marchi taking his spot.
Treviso flanker Francesco Minto replaces Alessandro Zanni, who fractured his nose against Wales and will be on the bench.
Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse will equal Andrea Lo Cicero as Italy's most capped player when he earns his 103rd cap this weekend.
The Azzurri, who beat France in their last two encounters in Rome, have never won against Les Bleus on French soil in the competition.
"France's strength is their history," said Brunel. "They are World Cup runners-up.
"They had a difficult time last year but they started the Six Nations with a victory over England and that has given them a lot of confidence in their game."
"Of course our wins against them are important. I think for some time now, Italy have been improving and we all know that.
"If we play at the level we are capable of playing at, then we can get close to the top teams.
"We hope that on Sunday we can remain in the game as long as possible but we will need to play a perfect game."
"We have decided to keep the same group but to make some changes to the starting XV in order to create a little bit of competition within the group," Brunel added.
"Esposito has not been benched because of the mistake he made in Cardiff but I believe Iannone has proved his quality in training and deserves a chance.
"Zanni is on the bench for the same reason as well as it being a precaution considering his fractured nose."
Five players included in the starting XV to face Wales have not earned more than eight caps for the Azzurri but Brunel is confident they can deliver.
"I expect our young players to play at a higher level than they have done before," he said. "Just as I trust them by giving them a role in the starting XV, they have to reward my trust with solid performances.
"We gave an interesting performance against Wales and there's no reason why we cannot take another step forward against France."
Team: 15 McLean; 14 Iannone, 13 Campagnaro, 12 Garci, 11 Sarto, 10 Allan, 9 Gori; 1 De Marchi, 2 Ghiraldini, 3 Castrogiovanni, 4 Geldenhuys, 5 Furno, 6 Bergamasco, 7 Minto, 8 Parisse.
Replacements: 16 Giazzon, 17 Rizzo, 18 Cittadini, 19 Bortolami, 20 Zanni, 21 Botes, 22 Orquera, 23 Esposito