What's hot and what's not from Italy's 2017 Six Nations match against France
Italy came into the match buoyed by their unexpected success at Twickenham, where they thwarted England for long periods and avoided the heavy drubbing many predicted.
Unfortunately, despite the boon of Sergio Parisse’s try from the first attack, it was to be the same old story for the Azzurri and they are now guaranteed their 12th wooden spoon in their 18 years of Six Nations rugby.
After Gael Fickou’s excellent opener for France, from a move sparked by Brice Dulin’s adventurous run from near his own line, the visitors grabbed second-half tries from Virimi Vakatawa, Louis Picamoles and Dulin to secure their first-ever try bonus point and Guy Noves’s first away win in the championship. They now join Ireland on ten points with a round to play.
French back three – Brice Dulin was making only his second start since RWC 2015, Scott Spedding paying the price for those dropped up-and-unders in Dublin. It was the ideal game for the Racing 92 full-back, with the weather fair and a few less-than-nimble opponents to run at, but he certainly delivered. His ambition for the Fickou try was great to see and he was on hand to bag the bonus point in the final minutes.
The southern hemisphere-born wings, Vakatawa and Noa Nakaitaci, also enjoyed themselves on a day when Italy were punished for not kicking the ball off the park.
Normal rules apply – It was pleasing to see Italy dabble only slightly in the no-ruck tactics that so dominated proceedings against England. Edoardo Gori was deployed as an occasional floating rover, darting round to France’s side whenever he sensed that no ruck, and therefore no offside line, had been formed.
Few people want to see extensive use of such tactics, so let’s hope Italy continue to use them sparingly and instead focus on improving their core basics.
Sergio Parisse – A shout-out for Italy’s captain on the day he equalled Brian O’Driscoll’s record for the most Six Nations matches as a captain – 41. He has soldiered on through defeat after defeat – 35 of them in those 41 games – and his performance levels rarely drop below excellent.
Parisse marked the day with his 15th Test try. Not much went right for Italy but they seem to be taking their driving mauls up a notch, and their use of the mini maul in open play is a useful weapon.
Second-half capitulation – Italy were still in the match at half-time, trailing 16-11, but by the time Angelo Esposito crossed in the final play they had leaked 24 further points and the match was long since over as a contest.
The Azzurri have now conceded 120 second-half points in this championship, scoring just ten, and it’s becoming an embarrassment. “They lose fitness, they lose concentration,” said TV commentator Shane Williams, probably as frustrated as the rest of us at the meek surrender.
Missed tackles – Much of the damage is self-inflicted, with Italy’s missed tackles shocking for international standards. They made 104 tackles but missed 53 at Stadio Olimpico – the highest missed tackles figure since the 54 against the same opponents in Italy’s debut Six Nations campaign in 2000.
Picamoles was able to shrug through three defenders straight off a scrum for his try and Vakatawa didn’t have a hand laid on him as he sauntered under the posts for what was effectively the killer blow after 47 minutes.
25 – Number of offloads made by France. It’s the only way they know
870 – Number of metres made by France – and they beat 53 defenders
66% – Italy’s tackle success rate, compared to 93% by France
16 – Number of carries made by Louis Picamoles, who also topped the individual tackle count with 15
11 – Consecutive Tests in which Italy have scored a try. But they’ve also lost five straight Tests and 11 in a row in the Six Nations
0 – Number of yellow cards conceded by France in this championship
Italy: E Padovani (L Sperandio 72); A Esposito, M Campagnaro (T Benvenuti 64), L McLean, G Venditti; C Canna, E Gori (G Bronzini 50); A Lovotti (S Panico 66), L Ghiraldini (T D’Apice 61), L Cittadini (D Chistolini HT), M Fuser (G Biagi 56), D Van Schalkwyk, B Steyn, S Favaro (M Mbanda 50), S Parisse (capt).
Tries: Parisse, Esposito. Con: Canna. Pens: Canna 2.
France: B Dulin; N Nakaitaci, R Lamerat (F Trinc-Duc 69), G Fickou, V Vakatawa (Y Huget 63); C Lopez, B Serin (A Dupont 72); C Baille (U Atonio 53), G Guirado (capt, C Tolofua 54), R Slimani (E Ben Arous 53), J Le Devedec (P Jedrasiak 58), Y Maestri, F Sanconnie, K Gourdon, L Picamoles (B Le Roux 72).
Tries: Fickou, Vakatawa, Picamoles, Dulin. Cons: Lopez 4. Pens: Lopez 4.