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Mas expects tough scrummaging

France's cornerstone prop Nicolas Mas expects a "complicated" scrummaging battle with Italy in Sunday's RBS 6 Nations clash in Paris.

The robust Montpellier front-rower caused problems at the coal face for England last week as France edged to a 26-24 home victory.

The 33-year-old will start against Italy this weekend in a side showing just three changes after that England win.

Dimitri Szarzewski starts at hooker, while Hugo Bonneval will make his debut in place of Maxime Medard on the wing.

Yoann Maestri starts alongside captain Pascal Pape at lock.

Francois Trinh-Duc, initially omitted from coach Philippe Saint-Andre's squad altogether but back in due to injuries, takes a seat on the bench with Antoine Burban ruled out.

Italy have never won in Paris, but have seen off the French twice in succession in Rome.

Mas has challenged the French to avenge last season's 23-18 defeat to Jacques Brunel's men.

"The scrum is one area where they come together extremely well," Mas told Le Figaro.

"They have a pack that knows their roles perfectly.

"And they are very good players, including (Martin) Castrogiovanni and (Leonardo) Ghiraldini.

"They must work this area a lot, they love it, they excel in this, and their coach likes it too.

"I have bad memories from last year of course; it was bad.

"I had not been sparkling. Against the Italians it is always complicated.

"It would be pretentious to fall into the trap, to get ahead of ourselves.

"We must remain humble: we only imposed ourselves with three minutes to go against England."

Italy forced Wales into a fright before the hosts ground home 23-15 on the tournament's opening weekend.

Mas believes that performance only serves to underline France's battle ahead.

Perpignan native Mas represented his home club with distinction for 14 years before making the Montpellier switch.

Italy boss Brunel coached Catalan club Perpignan between 2007 and 2011.

Mas admitted he knows the Italy head coach's style inside-out, but does not expect that to have any bearing on the contest.

"We do not think about him," said Mas. "Jacques coached me for quite some time and I know his way by heart, but now he is doing great things with Italy."


From Belfast Telegraph