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Nic Ladds 19th Mar 2009 - 16:04

Heroic Italy will go down, but go down fighting

Italy are as usual underdogs at odds of 5/1 to beat 1/9 shots France but a solid Italian defence could pose a few problems for the demoralised French.

The beating France suffered at the hands of England last week sent shockwaves through the nation at how their supposed heroes could play so catastrophically badly.

The same side that beat pre-tournament favourites Wales the previous week crumbled in the first half at Twickenham and it remains to be seen how they respond.

The fact that the handicap has France giving up 15 points at odds of 10/11 shows that they are fully expected to bounce back in style with Italy also 10/11 in receipt of 15 points.

What the French do have on their side is the fact that they have own the last 10 encounters they have had with Italy and not only that they generally beat them extremely comfortably, especially in Rome.

Marc Lievremont will not tolerate another performance like last week let alone allowing Italy even a chance to look like they'll win the game.

If the French are to deliver a beating then an alternative handicap of -25 could appeal which had France priced at 11/4.

In keeping with this train of thought, winning margins for France like 16-20 at 9/2 and 21-25 at 11/2 should be considered.

Italy have looked an improved side as the tournament has gone on as they held Ireland close for a long time before succumbing late on and nearly had the measure of Wales before a late Tom Shanklin try spared Welsh blushes.

They are a side that all the neutrals would love to see do well as they always do their best, and usually do make a game of it despite being the weakest team by far in terms of ability and strength in depth.

This suggests it could be tight early on and the Italians could conceivably be leading at half time before being over come later on as so often happens in their games.

This makes the 4/5 on offer about the second half being the highest scoring half appealing.

Sergio Parisse has been arguably player of the tournament and he will do his best to organise the pack and disrupt the French back line to stop them getting in to a rhythm.

The home defence is as usual bound to be organised and strong and Nick Mallet has picked the same side the troubled Wales for so long last time.

They may not be able to contain the French back-line for the whole game though who do have the talent to tear sides apart which is represented by the fact Cedric Heymans and Maxime Medard are both 7/1 in the betting to score the first try.

The French back three have impressed for the most part and Imanol Harinordoquy always looks a threat with some powerful runs forward and is 5/2 to score a try anytime as is fellow back-rower Thierry Dusatoir.

Mirco Bergamasco at 4/1 for a try anytime is as usual the main threat for Italy while nobody would begrudge Parisse a try at 6/1 to score anytime.

Italy are almost certainly going to receive the wooden-spoon again unless they can upset the odds greatly and beat the French.

France should be eager to make amends for their humbling last week and their record in Italy speaks for itself.

This should be a bruising game which could be close in the early stage but once again, for all Italy's trying it is likely they will come unravelled in the latter stages and help to mend some seriously damaged French egos.

France -15 - 10/11
Imanol Harinordoquy to score anytime - 5/2

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