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Six Nations: French hungry to feast on new-look Italians

By Duncan Bech

FRANCE coach Philippe Saint-Andre has warned his players not to take Italy for granted as the tournament favourites open their RBS 6 Nations campaign in Paris.

Italy are again expected to struggle while France, beaten finalists in the World Cup in New Zealand, start as the fancied team in the Six Nations.

Saint-Andre refuses to get carried away by his side's pre-tournament billing and prefers to adopt a cautious approach, reflecting on his side's embarrassing 22-21 defeat in Rome last season, a first defeat to Italy in the tournament.

“We shouldn't believe that the match against Italy will be easy,” said Saint-Andre.

“We will play with a lot of humility and desire. We will try to do anything to start well in this competition.”

Saint-Andre will rely on most of the squad which took France to the final in Wellington where they lost 8-7 to New Zealand.

Ten of the line-up at the Stade de France on Sunday took part in the World Cup final, with Saint-Andre bringing in three players who have starred for Clermont Auvergne this season.

Second in the Top 14 and having qualified for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu and Vincent Debaty have been added to the World Cup panel.

For Fofana it will be a Test debut as he comes in at centre in place of Perpignan's Maxime Mermoz.

New Italy coach Jacques Brunel hopes his side can begin a new dawn for the Azzurri.

Three years ago Brunel guided Perpignan to the Top 14 title having also served as assistant to Bernard Laporte, who was France coach from 2001 to 2007.

Brunel takes charge of Italy for the first time since succeeding Nick Mallett, who signed off from the role with a 36-6 defeat to Ireland in October which saw them eliminated from the World Cup.

Brunel will look to the experience of captain Sergio Parisse and Martin Castrogiovanni as the coach faces his home nation.

Aironi winger Giovanbattista Venditti and Treviso half-back Kris Burton are the only players in the starting line-up not to feature in the World Cup.

Brunel said: “I believe in the potential of this team. I am sure it has a future. France's goal is to win the Six Nations. Ours is to produce a different type of rugby from the past.”

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