Italy v France: Hosts can push unreliable opponents in Rome
Italy are on a 21-match losing run in the Six Nations but Simon Mail thinks they can cause problems for France in their closing match...
"France have lost their last ten away matches stretching back to their victory in Rome two years ago and the visitors could be vulnerable this weekend."
Italy v France
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Italy desperate to end losing run
Italy suffered their 21st consecutive defeat in the Six Nations after their crushing 57-14 loss to England at Twickenham. Conor O'Shea is still waiting to win his first match in the competition and he will be desperate to pull off a closing win against France. Italy will finish bottom again this season but a positive result this weekend will give them some optimism heading towards the World Cup in Japan.
Despite their losing run, Italy have shown a few promising signs especially in their home matches. Unbeaten leaders Wales were limited to an unconvincing 26-15 win in Rome while champions Ireland were pushed even harder. Italy led Ireland 16-12 at half-time and came away with plenty of credit from the 26-16 defeat.
O'Shea has made five changes to the team well beaten by England. Treviso centre Marco Zanon makes his debut for Italy. Zebre forward David Sisi comes in for injured lock Dean Budd. Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri also returns to the back row as Italy bid for their first Six Nations win since beating Scotland in 2015.
Inconsistent France continue to frustrate
France have shown occasional glimpses of quality but Jacques Brunel's side continue to frustrate their fans. Three defeats from four games means the best France can finish is fourth in the table. Their latest loss came in a 26-14 defeat in Ireland which was extremely flattering. France were comprehensively outplayed and late tries from Yoann Huget and Camille Chat made the scoreline much closer than it should have been.
The way in which France dominated against Scotland, in their 27-10 victory in Paris, was encouraging and the side should have also beaten Wales in their opener after squandering a first-half lead. France's two away performances have to be a big concern though because they were hammered 44-8 against England and totally outclassed in Dublin.
France have made six changes, following their poor display in Ireland, with Wesley Fofana returning from injury for the centre's final Six Nations appearance after announcing his retirement at the end of the World Cup. Toulouse full-back Maxime Medard is preferred to Thomas Ramos for this match while Clermont prop Etienne Falgoux makes a first start.
Italy can keep it close
France have had a dominant record against Italy winning the last six clashes between the teams. Italy have though managed to win two of their last four home games against them with the most recent coming in 2013. The hosts will have targeted this fixture as a realistic chance for them to win, especially with France's struggles away from home.
France have lost their last ten away matches stretching back to their victory in Rome two years ago and the visitors could be vulnerable this weekend. Italy are given a ten-point handicap this weekend and with their performances at home this year, coupled with France's travel sickness, this looks a bet worth taking.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
P/L 2018-19 season