France were massively out-played by Ireland, only responding with two consolation tries after falling 26 points in arrears.
It was their 10th loss in Brunel’s 14-match reign and the under-fire coach has responded by ringing the changes for fear that their terrible Six Nations campaign could finish on the humiliating low of a Stadio Olimpico defeat.
The French forwards had no answer to Ireland’s pressure game and Brunel had made four alterations to his pack. With Jefferson Poirot injured, Etienne Falgoux will make his first Test start at loosehead.
Paul Willemse returns to the second row to partner Felix Lambey, while Yacouba Camara and Gregory Alldritt are both handed starts in the back row in place of the injured Wenceslas Lauren and Arthur Iturria who drops to the bench.
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In the backs, Wesley Fofana, who was injured in the championship opener against Wales, returns in place of Gael Fickou. The other back line change sees Maxime Medard return at full-back for his Toulouse clubmate Thomas Ramos.
“We want to show a different face this week, but the results speak themselves,” said Brunel after announcing his team.
— Fédération Française de Rugby (@FFRugby) March 14, 2019
“We are not at the level of some of the other teams in this championship. But the team that played against Ireland and England, that was not the real French team.
“We haven’t fixed everything. Of course there are still things we need to work on. We will carry on, working hard and with the World Cup to come, we are hopeful we can get it right.”
FRANCE TEAM (versus Italy)
15. Maxime Medard (Toulouse)
14. Damian Penaud (Clermont)
13. Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon)
12. Wesley Fofana (Clermont)
11. Yoann Huget (Toulouse)
10. Romain Ntamack (Toulouse)
9. Antoine Dupont (Toulouse)
1. Etienne Falgoux (Clermont)
2. Guilhem Guirado (Montpellier)
3. Demba Bamba (Brive)
4. Felix Lambey (Lyon)
5. Paul Willemse (Montpellier)
6. Gregory Alldritt (La Rochelle)
7. Yacouba Camara (Montpellier)
8. Louis Picamoles (Montpellier)
16. Camille Chat (Racing 92)
17. Dany Priso (La Rochelle)
18. Dorian Aldegheri (Toulouse)
19. Paul Gabrillagues (Stade Francais)
20. Arthur Iturria (Clermont)
21. Baptiste Serin (Bordeaux-Begles)
22. Camille Lopez (Clermont)
23. Thomas Ramos (Toulouse)
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