With five minutes left on the clock of Italy’s last game, the press were ready to file their reports of another plucky Italian performance without getting a result. A few minutes and a penalty try later however and those stories were having to be radically changed. A first away win since way back in 2007 had been achieved and the Italians – so underwhelming in the championship so far – were jubilant.
That result changes the nature of the upcoming contest between Italy and France in Rome. If Italy had lost then it would have been a contest between two teams licking their wounds from a few bad weeks of RBS 6 Nations. Now there is the intriguing possibility that the Azzuri could claim back-to-back victories for the first time in eight years, especially since France have lost on their last two visits to Rome.
France, on the other hand, are at a low ebb. Despite winning their opening contest against Scotland, they have struggled to get going in the competition. Last week’s game against Wales saw French indiscipline cost them, giving Leigh Halfpenny too many opportunities to kick at the posts, which he duly accepted.
The team, led by Gilbert ambassador Thierry Dusautoir, have been going through an identity change under Coach Philippe Saint-Andre, leaving behind their more swashbuckling reputation for a formulaic brand of rugby. Results thus far have not paid dividends, and with Rugby World Cup 2015 now just six months away, Saint-Andre will need victories – or at least improved performances – in the final two RBS 6 Nations games of the campaign.
Sunday’s match has an intriguing feel to it. An Italian victory would put them on course for potentially their best finish ever with a game to go, which would be a huge achievement in Rugby World Cup year. A win for France could kick-start their season, with momentum absolutely crucial heading in to the big show.
Italy v France – the history
Italy have won the two previous meetings between the countries on home soil – 23-18 in 2013 and 22-21 in 2011. France won the contest in Paris last season, 30 points to 10 and have an overall Six Nations record of played 15, won 13 against Sunday’s opponents.
#TeamGilbert go Head to Head
Dusautoir and fellow Gilbert Rugby ambassador Francesco Minto will come head to head. Minto has been impressive so far in the competition and leads the tournament tackle count for the Azzuri, while the dark destroyer Dusautoir continues to lead from the front for his country.
Fancy yourself as the next French captain or to lead the tackle count for Italy? You can get the head guards worn by the pair here
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Show your support for France with an Official France Ball
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