SIX NATIONS: French wary of another Italian 'tsunami'
FRANCE coach Philippe Saint-Andre has warned his team against complacency in their Six Nations opener in Rome today, claiming traditional makeweights Italy are "no longer a little team".France were stunned by the Italians two years ago when a 22-21 loss sent shockwaves through the sport and Saint-Andre is wary of becoming another French fall-guy.
"They are no longer a little team even of public opinion thinks they are. Italy are progressing, they have evolved in their structure and organisation," said the French coach.
"This will be a complicated match. We respect the Italians. We have watched them and we know that if we do not play at a high level then it will be difficult.
"Statistics made France the favourites two years ago but the loss created a tsunami in France. We can only think of this game, not the ones to come."
Former skipper Thierry Dusautoir has been recalled to the France team.
The 31-year-old flanker, who captained France in the 2011 World Cup final against New Zealand, last played for the national side in last year's Six Nations tournament.
He was then rested for the tour of Argentina and was ruled out of the November Test matches with an injured knee.
In that time, Saint-Andre handed the captaincy over to Stade Francais lock Pascal Pape and he impressed in the job in the wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa.
Other changes see Racing Metro's Benjamin Fall come in on the wing for the injured Vincent Clerc, while Yoann Huget gets the nod at full-back ahead of the injured Brice Dulin.
Saint-Andre said the toughest choice had been in the back row where Yannick Nyanga, who impressed on his return to the team in November, was left out of the final 23-man squad to make way for the return of Dusautoir alongside his Toulouse teammate Fulgence Ouedraogo.
Italy's French coach Jacques Brunel's hopes of making his team believe they can gain at least two wins in this year's tournament will face a significant hurdle against France at the Olympic Stadium.
Brunel led Italy to a fifth place finish last year thanks to a closing 13-6 victory over Scotland in Rome, having produced one of their best ever performances in a 15-19 loss to England.
However the jury remains out on whether those feats, as well as two promising displays against New Zealand and Australia in last November's Test series, are a sure sign that Italy are ready to rock the big boys of European rugby. AFP