Six Nations: Wesley Fofana handed France debut

Centre Wesley Fofana
Clermont centre Wesley Fofana is set to make his debut against Italy in the Six Nations

Uncapped centre Wesley Fofana will make his debut for beaten World Cup finalists France in their opening Six Nations game against Italy on Saturday.

Fofana, 24, will link up with Clermont team-mate Aurelien Rougerie in the centres in new boss Philippe Saint Andre's first game in charge.

Aironi winger Giovanbattista Venditti will make his debut for Italy in new coach Jacques Brunel's inaugural game.

Uncapped Treviso scrum-half Tobias Botes is on the replacements bench.

Brunel has made seven changes in total from Italy's last outing, a pool defeat by Ireland in the 2011 World Cup, which was former coach Nick Mallett's last game in charge.

Former Sale Sharks and Gloucester boss Saint-Andre has called on Fofana to make the most of his France debut.

"Fofana's a classy player. I want him to show what he's been showing in the Top 14," said Saint-Andre.

"We've given him a chance, it's up to him to seize it."

The other changes for France include Toulouse's Louis Picamoles starting at number eight at the expense of Imanol Harinordoquy.

Montpellier fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc starts after coming on as a replacement in the World Cup final and will link up with Biarritz's Dimitri Yachvili, who was preferred to Morgan Parra at scrum-half.

Ten of the players who started the World Cup final, which Les Bleus lost 8-7 to New Zealand, are in Saturday's team.

Italy won last year's encounter 22-21 to secure their first-ever Six Nations win over France.

France team: Maxime Medard (Toulouse); Vincent Clerc (Toulouse), Aurelien Rougerie (Clermont), Wesley Fofana (Clermont), Julien Malzieu (Clermont); Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz); Vincent Debaty (Clermont), William Servat (Toulouse), Nicolas Mas (USA Perpignan), Pascal Pape (Stade Français), Lionel Nallet (Racing Metro), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse) (captain), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse).

Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski (Stade Français), Jean-Baptiste Poux (Toulouse),Yoann Maestri (Toulouse), Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz), Morgan Parra (Clermont), Lionel Beauxis (Toulouse), Maxime Mermoz (Perpignan).

Italy team: Andrea Masi (Aironi); Giovanbattista Venditti (Aironi), Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton Treviso), Alberto Sgarbi (Benetton Treviso), Luke McLean (Benetton Treviso); Kristopher Burton (Benetton Treviso), Edoardo Gori (Benetton Treviso); Andrea Lo Cicero (Racing-Metro Paris), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso), Martin Castrogiovanni (Leicester Tigers), Cornelius Van Zyl (Benetton Treviso), Quintin Geldenhuys (Aironi), Alessandro Zanni (Benetton Treviso), Robert Barbieri (Benetton Treviso), Sergio Parisse (Stade Français).

Replacements: Tommaso D'Apice (Aironi), Lorenzo Cittadini (Benetton Treviso), Marco Bortolami (Aironi), Simone Favaro (Aironi), Fabio Semenzato (Benetton Treviso), Tobias Botes (Benetton Treviso), Gonzalo Canale (Clermont).