The Toulouse flanker missed the autumn campaign after suffering a serious knee injury, but is selected in the back row as he replaces Yannick Nyanga.
Coach Philippe Saint-Andre had announced lock Pascal Pape would retain the captaincy, after doing an outstanding job in November, despite having 2011 IRB Player of the Year Dusautoir back at full fitness.
Dusautoir's return is one of six changes from the side that beat Samoa.
Injury to Bruce Dulin sees Yoann Huget step into the full-back jersey, with Benjamin Fall starting on the wing in the absence of Vincent Clerc.
Maxime Machenaud edges out Morgan Parra for the scrum-half jersey while loosehead prop Yannick Forestier and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski come in for Thomas Domingo and Benjamin Kayser in the front row.
Frederic Michalak retains the fly-half jersey despite playing his club rugby for Toulon at scrum-half.
Florian Fritz and Maxime Mermoz make up the centre combination, with Mathieu Bastareaud on the bench.
Les Bleus will be seeking revenge after suffering a humiliating 22-21 defeat in Rome in 2011.
France team to play Italy in Rome: Yoann Huget; Wesley Fofana, Maxime Mermoz, Florian Fritz, Benjamin Fall; Frederic Michalak, Maxime Machenaud; Louis Picamoles, Thierry Dusautoir, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape (capt) Nicolas Mas, Dimitri Szarzewski, Yannick Forestier.
Replacements: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Romain Taofifenua, Damien Chouly, Morgan Parra, Francois Trinh-Duc, Mathieu Bastareaud.
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