France have made five changes for their Six Nations match against Italy in Marseille tomorrow, with coach Jacques Brunel’s side looking to stem an eight-match winless streak amid disciplinary problems.
Brunel dropped several players who went out drinking in Edinburgh into the early hours without his permission following the 32-26 defeat by Scotland. Among them was winger Teddy Thomas, who has been a rare plus for a struggling France side with three tries in two matches.
Burley centre Mathieu Bastareaud returns to win his 43rd cap and will partner Geoffrey Doumayrou in midfield. Bastareaud had been dropped from the squad before the Six Nations started after receiving a three-week suspension for using anti-gay language during a match with his club, Toulon.
“Mathieu [Bastareaud] brings us his distinctive style of play and his experience,” Brunel said. “He seems to have taken on a new dimension [with Toulon].”
Hugo Bonneval replaces Geoffrey Palis at full-back, while Benjamin Fall and Remy Grosso are selected on the wings.
The fifth change sees Paul Gabrillagues come in at second row for Arthur Iturria – who was among those suspended and according to some French reports got involved in a scuffle on the streets in Edinburgh.
The match will be played at Stade Veldrome which is hosting a Six Nations game for the first time.
“We’re playing Italy amid particular circumstances, we can’t hide that, with recent defeats weighing on us,” Brunel said.