Maxime Lucu in action for France

France v Italy: Maxime Lucu starts for France in Antoine Dupont’s absence

Maxime Lucu in action for FranceMaxime Lucu replaced Antoine Dupont in France’s win over Namibia in their last game2023 Rugby World Cup – France v ItalyVenue: Parc Olympique Lyonnais Dates: Friday, 6 October Kick-off: 20.00 BSTCoverage: Full commentary of every game across BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

Maxime Lucu will start at scrum-half in the absence of injured France captain Antoine Dupont for their final World Cup Pool A game with Italy on Friday.

Dupont is not included in the 23-man squad as he continues his recovery from a broken cheekbone.

Elsewhere for the hosts, 20-year-old Louis Bielle-Biarrey is preferred to Gabin Villiere on the wing.

Italy name a new front row in place of the one that struggled in the set-piece in the 96-17 defeat by New Zealand.

The Azzurri have made five changes, with Simone Ferrari, Epalahame Faiva and Pietro Ceccarelli forming the new front row, while Niccolo Cannone returns to the second row and Pierre Bruno starts on the wing.

Behind the scrum, Tommaso Allan moves back to fly-half from full-back, with Paolo Garbisi returning to inside centre and Ange Capuozzo shifting from the wing to 15.

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Young France wing Bielle-Biarrey has been one of the breakout stars of the World Cup so far and is one of 13 Frenchmen to retain his place in the starting XV from the side which cruised past Namibia 96-0 in their last outing.

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Lucu’s inclusion for the injured Dupont and Gregory Alldritt’s return to the back row instead of Francois Cros are the only changes.

France will book their place in the quarter-finals as Pool A winners with victory over their Six Nations rivals in Lyon on Friday.

Italy can also progress to the last eight for the first time in history with a victory.

On the selections of Lucu and Matthieu Jalibert at scrum-half and fly-half respectively, France coach Fabien Galthie said: “Max has never let us down, he’s always performed well in the French team.

“He plays a lot for the team in both attack and defence. He’s courageous, he’s effectively a ninth forward.

“He and Matthieu complement each other. Matthieu is an experienced 10 who has been with us for four years, and he’ll be there for us again. The fact that they play together on a daily basis means they’re close and know how to play off each other.

“They’re our half-backs primarily thanks to their level of rugby and the performances they’ve already achieved with us.”

France face wait over Dupont

France’s health manager said Dupont is making good progress after breaking his cheekbone against Namibia but the tournament hosts will not know when their talismanic skipper can return to action until a meeting with his surgeon on Monday.

“He met the goals we had set,” Bruno Boussagol said.

“If he gets the green light to play with contact again we will resume gradually and then we will need to see how the players react, if he’s 100% fit and if he has any apprehension.

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“Finally, the coaches will decide. It is not because he is on the training pitch that he will play the game.”

France: Ramos; Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Bielle-Biarrey; Jalibert, Lucu; Baille, Mauvaka, Atonio, Woki, Flament, Jelonch, Ollivon (capt), Alldritt.

Replacements: Bourgarit, Wardi, Aldegheri, Taofifenua, Cros, Couilloud, Moefana, Jaminet.

Italy: Capuozzo; Bruno, Brex, Garbisi, Ioane; Allan, Varney; Ferrari, Faiva, Ceccarelli, N Cannone, Ruzza, Negri, Lamaro (capt), L Cannone.

Replacements: Manfredi, Zani, Riccioni, Sisi, Zuliani, Fusco, Morisi, Pani.