Berliner Tageblatt - Bergamasco backs Italy to cause 'doubting' France problems in Six Nations

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Bergamasco backs Italy to cause 'doubting' France problems in Six Nations
Bergamasco backs Italy to cause 'doubting' France problems in Six Nations / Photo: © AFP/File

Bergamasco backs Italy to cause 'doubting' France problems in Six Nations

Ex-Italy centre Mirco Bergamasco said his former side can cause problems for France's creaking defence in the Six Nations on Sunday and hope for just a second win in the competition since 2015.

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Les Bleus host the Azzurri in Lille having conceded six tries and 54 points in their opening two games.

Italy have so far been crushed by Ireland and suffered a narrow three-point loss to England. They are the only team with a worse defensive record than France.

"If Italy start to keep possession, it could become difficult for France because there's more doubts in defence than in attack, the key to the game will be to keep the ball longer than the French," Bergamasco told AFP.

"If you do that, you can hope to make them doubt themselves at the end of the game," the 40-year-old, who also played on the wing and at full-back, added.

Former Argentina fly-half Gonzalo Quesada signed a contract as Italy head coach until the 2027 Rugby World Cup having taken over from New Zealander Kieran Crowley after last year's disappointing campaign in the competition.

"Compared to past teams, they're not trying to play wherever on the field and whenever, they're controlling areas of the field where they play," Bergamasco said.

"Beforehand, they tried to play too much. It's what is the difference right now and what will be the difference until the next World Cup," he added.

Bergamasco played with Quesada at Stade Francais for a season before being coached by the Argentine at Parisian rivals Racing 92 for two campaigns.

The 49-year-old Quesada, unlike Crowley, has made a conscious effort to learn Italian since being appointed at the end of last year.

"It's what I expected because I taught him Italian back then," Bergamasco jokingly said.

"He knows it's important, culturally, when you arrive in a country and you speak a language, obviously you catch the players' attention.

"It shows you're not just there to coach and take the money, you're there because you have a contract and you want the team to progress," Bergamasco added.

- 'Have a go' -

Bergamasco, who now coaches French fourth-tier club Limoges, retired from Test rugby in 2012. He played a host of his 89 Tests alongside brother and former back-rower Mauro Bergamasco.

One of Mirco's highlights was 2011's victory over Les Bleus.

"It was a relief to go to back to my club in France with a smile as opposed to being sad," he said.

"It allowed us to say to other sides 'Be careful, you can't take us lightly you have to put your best team out, because we can win'," he added.

This weekend, Juan Ignacio Brex and Tommaso Menoncello are likely to start in Bergamasco's former slot in midfield.

Brex and Menoncello will face France's experienced centre pairing of Gael Fickou and Jonathan Danty.

"They perform well and they seem to get along on and off the field. It makes a difference," Bergamasco said.

"Two good players, guys who will have a go, maybe not as strong technically as Danty and Fickou but two guys who won't give an inch for 80 minutes.

"It will be a good battle, a good test for Fickou and Danty to see if they really want to make it to the next World Cup," Bergamasco added.