Six Nations
Saint-Andre rings the changes for Italy
ESPNscrum Staff
January 31, 2012
Clermont's Wesley Fofana makes a break, Clermont Auvergne v Castres, Aviva Premiership, Marcel Michelin Stadium, France, December 3, 2011
Wesley Fofana will take his bow for France against Italy © Getty Images
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Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: France

French coach Philippe Saint-Andre has rung the changes in his first selection as Les Bleus boss for their Six Nations opener with Italy on Saturday.

Saint-Andre has wasted no time in putting down his marker as French boss and has made five changes from the side which lost the World Cup final to the All Blacks. And he has handed a debut to Clermont Auvergne centre Wesley Fofana for their opener against the Azzurri in the Stade de France. He partners Aurelien Rougerie in the centres with fellow Clermont back Julien Malzieu starting on the wing - his first appearance in a France shirt since their Test in Buenos Aires back in June 2010.

And Saint-Andre is tipping Fofana to make an immediate impact. "He brings enthusiasm and freshness," Saint-Andre said of Fofana. "We know his qualities, his speed. He's a quick player. You have to start one day. I don't want him to be under pressure. He must show his qualities and should enjoy himself, not be shy and show what he does for his club."

Elsewhere in the backs, Maxime Medard keeps his spot at fullback and will line up alongside his Toulouse team-mate Vincent Clerc. But the former Toulon boss has favoured Biarritz's Dimitri Yachvili over Clermont's Morgan Parra at half-back with Montpellier's Francois Trinh-Duc starting at fly-half.

In the forwards, Saint-Andre hands a start to loose-head Vincent Debaty - who earns his first cap since facing Romania back in 2006. William Servat and Nicholas Mas line up alongside him in the front-row while veteran Lionel Nallet partners Pascal Pape in the second-row - the same partnership which faced the All Blacks back in October. In the back-row - Julien Bonnaire, Louis Picamoles and captain Thierry Dusautoir get the nod with Imanol Harinordoquy having to be content with a spot amongst the replacements.

And Dusautoir has called for focus ahead of Saturday's clash. "Italy lost to Australia at the World Cup (in the pool stage) but were on level terms at half-time against a team who scored 60 points against us the year before," Dusautoir said. "This is not the Italy of a few years ago. Last year we lost to them but it was only logical after the progress they have made.

"We are going to approach this match knowing how important it is to win the first game, and for a win in Paris in front of our supporters."

France team: M Medard (Toulouse); V Clerc (Toulouse), A Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne), W Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), J Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne); F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), D Yachvili (Biarritz); V Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), W Servat (Toulouse), N Mas (Perpignan), P Pape (Stade Francais), L Nallet (Racing Metro), T Dusautoir (capt, Toulouse), J Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), L Picamoles (Toulouse)

Replacements: D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), J-B Poux (Toulouse), Y Maestri (Toulouse), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), M Parra (Clermont Auvergne), L Beauxis (Toulouse), M Mermoz (Perpignan)

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