Brunel keen to renew rivalry with Novès

Date published: February 5 2016

Italy boss Jacques Brunel is relishing the challenge of going head-to-head with new France coach Guy Novès when their sides meet in Paris on Saturday.

Brunel and Novès are familiar foes as the pair began their coaching careers in France at the same time back in the late 1980s.

"I have faced Noves for over 25 years, so we know each other well," said Brunel.

The Azzurri coach expects big things from his charges after naming four uncapped players – full-back David Odiete, winger Mattia Bellini and front-rowers Andrea Lovotti and Ornel Gega –  in his starting line-up for this weekend's clash. 

"During the winter, after the World Cup, there were several young players who were able to shine, earning the call-up and then selection for the match against France," explained Brunel.

"Someone like [David] Odiete is doing very well with Mogliano, so it is right to give him an opportunity to see if he can be a part of the future of the national team in the role of full-back.

"Certainly some of our choices were dictated by injuries, of which we have a few. The number of appearances they have made at club level was also a factor as some players seen at the World Cup went back to their foreign clubs and have not played enough.

"We have gone on a journey as a team in recent years but it is not yet time to take stock of what we've done. There's still a tournament to be played before that."

Novès has also surprised by naming four newbies in his run-on side and Brunel has identified France Sevens speedster Virimi Vakatawa as a big threat.

"The choice of Vakatawa to start on the wing is interesting – I've seen him play a few times in rugby sevens and he has athleticism out of the norm which can certainly be dangerous," he added.

"But we have to focus on ourselves, go on the pitch with our usual ambition and our desire to impose our rugby on our opponents."