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Friday, 31 March, 2000, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Dominguez to bow out in France

Dominguez, seen here at the start of his international career with Italy, has 808 Test points
Italy's talismanic fly-half Diego Dominguez will be aiming to inspire another Six Nations upset as the championship newcomers take on France at the Stade de France.

It is a huge loss to Italian rugby

Italy coach Brad Johnstone
The match is set to be the final international appearance for the 34-year-old, who plays his club rugby for Stade Francais.

Dominguez, born in Argentina, has announced he will retire after Saturday's championship finale.

But Italy coach Brad Johnstone is not convinced Dominguez' decision is final.

"Obviously it is a huge loss to Italian rugby," he said.

"I believe he has two or three years left at the top but I think the (Italian Rugby) Federation would have to find a way to motivate him to play again. I believe it is in the hands of the president (of the Federation)."

Dominguez says he will retire on Saturday
Italy pulled off the upset of the tournament so far when they defeated Scotland in Rome.

And it was Dominguez who orchestrated the victory with an impeccable performance, kicking 29 of his side's 34 points with six penalty kicks, a conversion and a hat-trick of drop goals.

Heavy defeats at the hands of Wales, Ireland and England have followed for Italy.

But Johnstone believes his players can end their losing streak in Paris.

"My goal, and every team has to have a goal, for this season was to win two games. My goal is still to win two games," he said.

We have played only one match with what I would call our first team. After that we had to patch up the holes, and certain players who came in were not at international level

France coach Bernard Laporte
"They (France) are under a lot of pressure. I don't know if that will make it easier or harder. They have struggled for a couple of years now and they want to win back their reputation."

But the wily coach was careful not to underestimate the French, who have come in for some flak since their 27-25 loss to Ireland, their fifth consecutive defeat at the Stade de France.

"I believe this French team is stronger than the team that played against Ireland," maintained Johnstone.

"I've never thought anything other than that the French have wonderful players, it's just a matter of them managing to put it together. I am expecting a tough game.

"The French team have a different pattern and style.

Hueber: Veteran scrum-half comes in for France
"They can create anything from nothing but they can also make mistakes at any time which could be to our advantage."

Certainly Dominguez, who will earn his 61st cap, is the man to make the French pay for any return of their familiar lack of discipline.

In nine years of international rugby, he has scored 808 Test points.

Victory for Italy could also herald another international retirement - that of France coach Bernard Laporte.

Injury crisis

Laporte has spent the season criticising the demanding French club rugby calendar which has seen almost half his first-choice players forced out with injury.

"We only played one match, the opening game against Wales, with what I would call our first team," he said.

"After that we had to patch up the holes, and certain players who came in were not at international level."

Some the holes have been filled by the return of centre Richard Dourthe and fly-half Alain Penoud.

But the French are still far from full-strength, with Aubin Hueber coming in at scrum-half among other changes.

Italy meanwhile welcome back fullback Matthew Pini, the only change to the side which took the lead against England in Rome but ended up on the end of a 59-12 walloping.

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See also:

30 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Pini back for Italian finale
29 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Penaud back in French fold
17 Mar 00 | Six Nations
O'Driscoll treble seals historic win
05 Feb 00 | Six Nations
Scots destroyed in Italian debut
01 Oct 99 | Italy
Key player: Diego Dominguez
20 Feb 00 | Rugby Union
Welsh record-breakers stroll home
19 Feb 00 | Rugby Union
Scots left battered and bruised
04 Mar 00 | Rugby Union
Record-breaking O'Gara sinks Italy
18 Mar 00 | Six Nations
Healey hat-trick sparks Roman romp
31 Jan 00 | Six Nations
Italy: The Sixth Nation
Links to other Six Nations stories are at the foot of the page.