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France out for revenge

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, and Italy can look forward to an extra-large and well-chilled helping when they pitch up in the Stade de France this afternoon.

France were slow to recover from their 23-18 loss to Italy in Rome on the opening weekend of last year's Six Nations - they finished last in the table, with only their win against Scotland saving them from a whitewash - and they are determined to make amends today.

France have made three changes to the side that made a winning start in this year's tournament against England a week ago. Dimitri Szarzewski, impressive as a replace-ment against the English, starts at hooker, while Hugo Bonneval will make his debut in place of Maxime Medard on the wing. Yoann Maestri takes over from Alexandre Flan-quart in the second row.

Italy were sloppy against Wales last weekend, conceding some soft scores in their 23-15 loss, but coach Jacques Brunel sprang a surprise when he made five changes.

Angelo Esposito, whose first-minute blunder gifted a try to Wales, makes way for Tommaso Iannone, while Gonzalo Garcia moves to outside centre in place of Alberto Sgarbi after a six-month injury lay-off. In the pack, prop Alberto de Marchi and lock Joshua Furno come in for Michele Rizzo and Marco Bortolami, while Francesco Minto replaces Alessandro Zanni at flanker.

Although Italy have won two of their past three clashes with France, both were in Rome. In 14 seasons of Six Nations rugby, their solitary away success was their 37-17 win against Scotland at Murrayfield in 2007. Perhaps anticipating a French backlash, Burnel did not sound confident of notching another today.

"If we play at the level we are capable of playing at, then we can get close to the top teams," he said. "We hope that on Sunday we can remain in the match as long as possible but we will need to play a perfect game."

Alasdair Reid

France v Italy, 3pm, BBC1

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