Autumn Nations Cup: France ring the changes for visit of Italy

France head coach Fabien Galthie has made 13 changes and included five debutants in his XV to face Italy in the Autumn Nations Cup as part of an agreement on rotating players.

Only fly-half Matthieu Jalibert and wing Teddy Thomas remain in the team announced on Thursday from the starting lineup which beat Scotland 22-15 last weekend at Murrayfield.

The new caps at the Stade de France are prop Rodrigue Neti, locks Killian Geraci and Baptiste Pesenti; centre Jean-Pascal Barraque and winger Gabin Villiere.

Scrum-half Baptiste Serin replaces Charles Ollivon as captain and wins his 39th cap, four years after his debut as one of the team’s most promising young players.

Serin is one of only three players in the team with at least 20 caps, the others being Thomas (22) and full-back Brice Dulin (30). Jalibert will take over the kicking duties.

There are also six new faces on the bench, tallying 11 uncapped players in the matchday 23. Tighthead prop Uini Atonio brings vital experience with 32 test caps.

The sweeping changes are necessary in an agreement between the French Rugby Federation and French league clubs restricting players to appearing in only three of the five internationals this autumn so the Top 14 clubs don’t lose too many players.

The agreement was reached last month following weeks of fierce bickering between the FFR and the French league (LNR), who wanted only five tests scheduled. Clubs threatened to retain players.

A total of 31 players were made available for France’s matches, instead of the 42 Galthie wanted, but France will play only five tests after a scheduled match against Fiji was cancelled after a virus outbreak in the Fijian camp.

If France beat Italy and top Group B, however, they could play a final playoff game against Six Nations champions England at Twickenham with a weakened team unless a new agreement is reached between the FFR and the LNR.

A minute’s silence will be held before Saturday’s game in memory of France great Christophe Dominici, and players will wear his nickname Domi on their left sleeves.

France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Baptiste Serin (c); 1 Rodrigue Neti, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 4 Killian Geraci, 5 Baptiste Pesenti, 6 Cameron Woki, 7 Sekou Macalou, 8 Anthony Jelonch.

Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolingar, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Cyril Cazeaux, 20 Swan Rebbadj, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Louis Carbonel, 23 Yoram Moefana.

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