By Owain Jones, Rugby World Editor
In a nutshell
France gained revenge over Italy after last year’s humbling 22-21 defeat in Rome, romping to a four-try, 30-12 win. The scoreline didn’t reflect a game in which the Azzurri, under new coach Jacques Brunel, had plenty of possession, and at least tried to play with some ambition. Sadly they didn’t have the attacking arsenal to make their territorial advantage count and were undone by a more incisive French backline. Aurelien Rougerie and Julien Malzieu ran in from distance in the first-half and Vincent Clerc and debutant Wesley Fofana crossed the whitewash after the break giving Philippe Saint-Andre’s the perfect start to his coaching career with Les Bleus.
Although Italy had enjoyed more territory and possession in the first-half, their resolve was broken by Julien Malzieu in the 35th minute. Taking the ball some 50metres out, Malzieu evaded three Italian defenders along the touchline, before stepping inside and using a power fend to carry himself over the line. The score gave the French a nine-point deficit as they went in 15-6 at the break.
Star man: Wesley Fofana
There were fine performances from Julien Malzieu and Aurelien Rougerie out wide but it was the young powerhouse from Clermont Auvergne caught the eye. Fofana grew in confidence as the game opened up showcasing his full repertoire of skills; quick feet, vision and the strength to finish some concerted French pressure late on with a well-taken try.
Room for improvement
Italy’s renowned scrummaging power was given a thorough examination throughout the game as Nicolas Mas and Vincent Debaty gave experienced duo Martin Castrogiovanni and Andrea Lo Cicero an uncomfortable afternoon, with the French even winning two scrums against the head. Brunel will have plenty of work to do before they meet England next week. The Azzurri will also have nightmares watching Julien Malzieu’s try again and again. Defence, what defence?
In quotes – the winners
France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre: “As a coach, you seek perfection but today you saw a great defence, a good discipline and we even scored four tries. Italy employed a strategy that saw them keep the ball. They didn’t give it up easily.”
France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili: “We are very happy to have beaten Italy because last year they beat us in Rome, so it’s a bit of revenge. “We are World Cup finalists and everyone is waiting for us, so it’s going to be very hard.
In quotes – the losers
Italy coach Jacques Brunel: “We showed a good spirit on the pitch, always trying to attack and put the French on the backfoot. It’s sometimes difficult to find the words to explain the missed passes and everything else that went wrong.”
Italy captain Sergio Parisse: “We showed ambition, a desire to play and had lots of ball but we needed to be more clinical because we had chances to score but didn’t. I don’t recall having dominated the game and France played it well. They managed to score some tries.”
France made 99 tackles, missing only three, compared to Italy’s 64 yet they missed nine tackles.
France made double the line breaks with six, compared to Italy’s 3.
Italy made 157 passes to France’s 123.
Both France and Italy won six turnovers.
France: Maxime Medard; Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie (Maxime Mermoz 75), Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu; Francois Trinh-Duc (Lionel Beauxis 75), Dimitri Yachvili (Morgan Parra 62); Vincent Debaty (Poux 62), William Servat (Dimitri Szarzweski, 55), Nicolas Mas (Vincent Debaty 75), Pascal Pape, Lionel Nallet (Yoann Maestri 51), Thierry Dusautoir, Julien Bonnaire, Louis Picamoles (Imanol Harinordoquy 65)
Tries: Rougerie, Malzieu, Clerc, Fofana.
Cons: Yachvili (2)
Pens: Yachvili (2)
Italy: Andrea Masi; Giovanbattista Venditti, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi (Gonzalo Canale 56) Luke McLean; Kristopher Burton (Tobias Botes 56), Edoardo Gori (Fabio Semenzato 75); Andrea Lo Cicero (Cittadini 63), Leonardo Ghiraldini (Tommaso D’Apice 75), Martin Castrogiovanni, Cornelius Van Zyl (Marco Bortalami 56), Quintin Geldenhuys, Alessandro Zanni, Robert Barbieri (Simone Favaro 67), Sergio Parisse
Sin-bin: Geldenhuys (71)
Pens: Burton (3)
Drop-goals: Burton (1)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)