On-field preparations for Rugby World Cup 2021 are drawing to a close now with only a handful of tests to be played before the tournament starts on 8 October.

On Friday night in the northern Italian city of Biella, two of the European contenders will go head-to-head as Italy and France play each other for the second time in as many weeks.

The match counts towards the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, with Italy the only one of the two teams able to improve on their position.

Italy will match their highest-ever ranking of fifth if they beat France, climbing above USA in the process while also condemning Les Bleues to fourth.

It is not possible for France to climb any higher than their current ranking of third.

New captain, different result?

For Italy, it will take a monumental effort to avenge last weekend’s scoreline.

Italy lost the first encounter with France in Nice, 21-0, but will take heart from the fact they prevented Les Bleues from scoring in the final hour of the match.

Also, having seen how the All Blacks and South Africa overturned heavy defeats to Argentina and Australia in the second of their back-to-back fixtures in the men’s Rugby Championship, the Azzurre are all too aware that a week is a long time in sport and all is not lost.

That said, they will have to do without one of their key players in full-back Manuela Furlan as they chase what would be only their fifth win in 25 attempts against Les Bleues.

Furlan has been ruled out with the knee ligament injury she picked up in Nice and is replaced as Italy’s captain by Melissa Bettoni, who leads the Azzurre for the first time in 72 tests.

In addition to the change of captaincy, Italy coach Andrea di Giandomenico has brought in six new faces to his starting XV and made one positional change.

In the pack, Gaia Maris returns at loose-head and flankers Isabella Locatelli and Francesca Sgorbini are promoted from the bench into the back row.

As for the backline, Beatrice Rigoni shifts back to inside centre, meaning a change of half-backs with Sofia Stefan and Veronica Madia to start this weekend, Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi replaces the injured Furlan at full-back.

France coach Thomas Darracq has made five personnel and five positional changes to his starting line-up for this return match with Italy

Rose Bernadou comes in at tight-head to join Annaëlle Deshaye and Agatha Sochat in the front row. Sochat takes over the captaincy with Gaëlle Hermet having returned home to recover from the knee injury she suffered last weekend

The second row is unchanged but a new-look back-row now features Manaé Feleu and Emeline Gros alongside number eight Romane Ménager

Pauline Bourdon will start her first test of the year at scrum-half with Lina Queyroi, the 21-year-old who made her debut off the bench last weekend, handed the 10 jersey.

Caroline Drouin shifts out one position to inside centre and is joined in midfield by Marine Ménager in another positional switch, having started on the wing in Nice

A rejigged back-three sees Emilie Boulard move from full-back to the right wing

Italy will face Canada, USA and Japan in Pool B, while France have been drawn with England, Fiji and South Africa in Pool C.