Berbizier ready for France test

Italy coach Pierre Berbizier makes his first competitive visit to the Stade de France on Saturday knowing his charges could be breaking new ground when they play his native France in the 6 Nations Championship. [more]

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Italy coach Pierre Berbizier makes his first competitive visit to the Stade de France on Saturday knowing his charges could be breaking new ground when they play his native France in the 6 Nations Championship.

France are clear favourites to win the match but the first year of Berbizier’s reign has provided enough encouragement for the Azzurri to dream of a first win on foreign soil in the northern hemisphere’s showpiece tournament.

Some pundits have suggested Italy should play a defensive game in the hope of getting the notoriously impatient Stade de France crowd on the backs of the hosts.

However, Berbizier has pledged an attacking approach as Italy look to add a 6 Nations win away from home to the successes they have so far enjoyed in Rome at the Stadio Flaminio.

"It would be suicidal to allow France to have possession in order to avoid their lethal counter-attacks," he said.

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"We must instead do all we can to win the ball and the best way we can impose our game is not losing possession ourselves.

"We have to improve our game in the line-out, which is crucial in terms of possession, and how we play our opponents in the line-outs will be crucial to the game."

Berbizier’s first year as Italy coach has drawn plenty of plaudits and the Azzurri have produced two excellent displays in the tournament this year.

But they are still on course to retain the unwanted prize of the wooden spoon.

They were beaten 26-16 by Ireland in Dublin, before producing an excellent performance in Rome, where Italy gave world champions England a run for their money before losing 31-16.

Berbizier is not resting on his laurels, however, saying: "We must be much better than we were against England."

The theory that Berbizier’s Latin approach is more suited to Italy than that of his New Zealand predecessors Brad Johnstone and John Kirwan is one that makes sense to Berbizier.

"Italy have traditionally done well with French coaches and I hope to continue that trend but we have to hold our heads high and keep our feet on the ground," said Berbizier.

"We will have to compete at 100 per cent and I can tell you if we do play at 100 per cent, it will be a good game."

Berbizier added: "I am looking forward to my first appearance as a coach at the Stade de France. It will be the first 80,000 sell-out for Italy and that’s like the 4,000 who came over to support us in Dublin and the full-house against England.

"It’s an extra incentive to do as well as we can."

One change has been made to the team that lost so gallantly to England, with lock Carlo Antonio del Fava coming in for the injured Santiago Dellape.

The odds remain in favour of France but a first away conquest for Italy in the RBS 6 Nations could yet make Berbizier’s debut appearance at the Stade de France a memorable one.

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