France scored four unanswered tries to beat Italy 30-12 in the Six Nations opener in Paris on Saturday.
This was an important fixture for two reasons. Firstly, it was a new era for both teams as France coach Philippe Saint-Andre and Italy boss Jacques Brunel (both Frenchman) started their Test tenures at the Stade de France. It was also a revenge match for the hosts, following their first-ever defeat to the Azzurri in last year’s Six Nations. They were edged 22-21 in Rome thanks to two late penalties from wing Mirco Bergamasco.
On this occasion, it proved to be an easy outing for Les Bleus, who never found themselves behind on the scoreboard during their 18-point win.
While both teams committed numerous individual errors, France delivered several moments of impressive attacking play and were stronger on defence. Italy dominated the scrums with a superior front row, but they were beaten in every other facet of play. Their overall backline showing was also disappointing.
France led 15-6 at the break thanks to tries from outside centre Aurelien Rougerie and wing Julien Malzieu, who is one of the players who Saint-Andre has brought back to the Test squad. Rougerie took advantage of static Italian defence and broke through in the midfield while Malzieu had a strong run out wide after being put through by No 8 Louis Picamoles’ run off the back of a scrum. Scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili added one conversion and two penalties while Italy flyhalf Kris Burton kept his side in the game at half-time with a drop goal and penalty.
France then sealed victory as wing Vincent Clerc and debutant Wesley Fofana crossed the chalk, while Yachvili added another five points with the boot. Italy struggled in the second half and finished the match with 14 men after lock Quintin Geldenhuys was sent to the sin bin for collapsing a rolling maul. South African-born reserve flyhalf Tobias Botes came off the bench to make his Test debut and converted a penalty.
By Gareth Duncan