New-look side run in five tries to beat Italy 36-5 and top Group B
France book place in Autumn Nations Cup final against England
France will play England in next weekend’s Autumn Nations Cup final after beating Italy 36-5 at the Stade de France in Paris.
The victory means France have leapfrogged Scotland to top Group B with three wins from three and will travel to Twickenham next Sunday for the tournament finale.
Fabien Galthie selected a new-look French team for this fixture with Italy because, as part of an FFR agreement with the Top 14 clubs, he can pick players for only three Tests in this autumn programme.
The management team had opted for continuity earlier in the autumn, their first-choice XV seeing off Wales, Ireland and Scotland. This match against Italy was a chance for new faces and recalled players to make an impression – and they did, it just took them a little time to do so.
They scored five tries in all, but four of them came in the last half-hour.
There was an understandable lack of cohesiveness in the first half, with Italy looking far more coherent in attack and defence given the prolonged period of time they have spent together.
It was the Azzurri who scored the first try – and a well-worked one it was.
Marco Zanon made a powerful break, Paolo Garbisi jinked through French tacklers and fed Carlo Canna, whose try gave Italy a 5-3 lead.
Still, France went in 10-5 ahead at the break thanks to a converted Jonathan Danty try towards the end of the opening period, the centre powering over following a five-metre scrum.
It was a fractured third quarter, both teams struggling to put the phases together, but the French then scored two tries while Italy wing Jacopo Trulla was in the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on.
First, Gabin Villiere scythed through the Italian defence after a French lineout steal (watch it below) and then a powerful driving maul in the Italy 22 ended in a try for scrum-half Baptiste Serin.
Teddy Thomas got the bonus-point try after being put away down the wing by Brice Dulin in the 63rd minute and Sekou Macalou wrapped up the victory by crossing once the clock had gone red.
It was far from a perfect performance from France – to be expected given the number of changes and new caps – but it was a convincing victory nonetheless.
France are the only team to have beaten England in 2020, triumphing 24-17 in Paris in the opening match of the Six Nations, but it will be a very different French side that lines up at Twickenham for the final due to that FFR agreement with the Top 14 clubs.
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