France and Italy will be without their star centres when they meet for their opening Rugby World Cup match at Twickenham on Saturday.
France’s Wesley Fofana failed to recover from a thigh injury sustained in the last warm-up match, against Scotland on September 5, and was missing when the team was announced on Thursday.
Italy was already resigned to being without its own star centre, Luca Morisi, for the whole tournament after he tore ligaments in his right knee in a warm-up against Wales.
Morisi is harder to replace, as Italy’s backline options are considerably weaker than France’s, which brought in Alexandre Dumoulin to partner the powerful Mathieu Bastareaud in midfield.
Michele Campagnaro, the Exter centre making his World Cup debut, is Morisi’s replacement for the Pool D game.
Otherwise, France coach Philippe Saint-Andre picked his strongest side. Sebastien Tillous-Borde was preferred to Morgan Parra at scrumhalf, meaning No. 10 Frederic Michalak will take kicking duties.
Italy will also be without inspirational captain Sergio Parisse, who is missing the start of the World Cup after having fluid drained from his left leg. Samuela Vunisa is the No. 8 against France.
“Sergio brings us a lot of energy and leadership,” Italy centre Andrea Masi said, “and everyone now has to take on that responsibility for the match. He is an exceptional player.”
France: Scott Spedding, Yoann Huget, Mathieu Bastareaud, Alexandre Dumoulin, Noa Nakaitaci, Frederic Michalak, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Louis Picamoles, Damien Chouly, Thierry Dusautoir, Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado, Eddy Ben Arous. Reserves: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Bernard Le Roux, Alexandre Flanquart, Morgan Parra, Remi Tales, Gael Fickou.
Italy: Luke McLean, Leonardo Sarto, Michele Campagnaro, Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista Venditti, Tommaso Allan, Edoardo Gori; Samuela Vunisa,ancesco Minto, Alessandro Zanni, Josh Furno, Quintin Geldenhuys, Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Matias Aguero. Reserves: Andrea Manici, Michele Rizzo, Lorenzo Cittadini, Valerio Bernabo, Simone Favaro, Guglielmo Palazzani, Carlo Canna, Enrico Bacchin.