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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 16:37 GMT
Ibanez anticipates Italy struggle
Raphael Ibanez
Ibanez leads France in the absence of the injured Fabien Pelous
France captain Raphael Ibanez says his side will need "character and determination" to get the Six Nations off to a winning start against Italy.

Les Bleus travel to Rome on Saturday, aware that they trailed the improving Azzurri at half-time last year.

Italy also troubled England and Ireland before running out of steam late on.

"Everything isn't going to be perfect against Italy, but we must compensate for our difficulties by sheer determination," said Ibanez.

We will not be surprised by them - but we must raise the level of our game

Raphael Ibanez

"The first match, away from home and against a team who are difficult to play against, will demand a lot of character on our part.

"We know what to expect against a pack of strong forwards and a team who are still experimenting.

"We will not be surprised by them - but we must raise the level of our game."

France won the Six Nations on points from Ireland last year but struggled in their three home November Tests, losing heavily twice to the All Blacks and scraping to a 27-26 win over Argentina.

Coach Bernard Laporte has also been hampered by injuries to fly-half Frederic Michalak and skipper Fabien Pelous - who will miss at least the first two matches - and is still experimenting to find his best XV.

But the French are also conscious that they need to mount a successful defence of their Six Nations title to provide a springboard for the World Cup on home soil in September.

"We have a lot of work to do in this tournament, notably on the simple things," said Ibanez.

"We will try this week to get back to the things we know. There are also things to rectify in our attacking game."

France turn to Skrela as fly-half
30 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
Berbizier launches Laporte attack
29 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
Vermeulen injury blow for France
16 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
France name four uncapped players
04 Jan 07 |  Rugby Union
Pelous to be fit for Six Nations
19 Dec 06 |  Rugby Union
France edge to win over Argentina
25 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
France 11-23 New Zealand
18 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
France 3-47 New Zealand
11 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union
Michalak ruled out of Six Nations
14 Nov 06 |  Rugby Union


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