The scrum-half dictates as seven-try France brush the Azzurri aside 50-10 in Rome

Dupont dazzles as France crush Italy

Man of the Match Antoine Dupont was at the heart of a seven-try demolition of Italy as France launched the 2021 Six Nations in emphatic fashion.

The much-heralded Toulouse scrum-half, whom some dub the world’s best player, set up two quickfire tries to put les Bleus out of sight in the first half. Then, after Brice Dulin had secured the try bonus point on 48 minutes, Dupont scored the fifth try and gave a scoring pass for Teddy Thomas for the sixth.

He was substituted before the hour mark, saved for a stiffer challenge another day.

“As usual, he (Dupont) put in a great performance. It no longer surprises anyone,” said France captain Charles Ollivon. “It was a tough match up front, as we suspected. The Italians were brave, they went through a lot of phases in the first half.”

Historically, Italy have often stretched France in the Six Nations, albeit whilst only beating them on two occasions. But Fabien Galthié’s team are made of sterner stuff.

Italy v France

Gaël force: centre Gaël Fickou celebrates his try with Arthur Vincent during France’s win in Rome (Inpho)

It took less than six minutes for France to score the first try of the championship. Thomas and Arthur Vincent made sizeable initial inroads and when the forwards took over near the line, blindside Dylan Cretin crashed over by the posts. Matthieu Jalibert converted and added a penalty five minutes later.

Undaunted, the youthful Italy players worked their way back into the game. Some excellent support and offloading, 19 phases in all, resulted in a penalty when Ollivon didn’t roll away. Paolo Garbisi got Italy on the board.

If the Azzurri were encouraged, they were soon set squarely on their heels. First, Dupont dinked a grubber through the line from a stalled driving maul and Gaël Fickou strolled through to touch down, not a defender in sight. Watch it here.

Next, a handling error allowed Gabin Villière to snatch possession and when he found Dupont in support, the scrum-half floated a delicious offload in the tackle over his left shoulder to give Vincent his first Test try.

Both tries were converted and suddenly France were three full scores ahead at 24-3.

Italy seemed to have cancelled out one of those scores when Stephen Varney threw two dummies down the short side and put Monty Ioane away for a try. Unfortunately, it was disallowed after TMO Karl Dickson ruled that Varney’s pass had been marginally forward.

Garbisi left the field for an HIA and half-time was reached with no further score.

At times, the second period was a one-way procession as French attackers flooded through an overwhelmed home defence.

Dulin’s bonus-point score from Villière’s grubber set the tone. Dupont, running a classic nine inside support line, ambled over from Thomas’s pass. Then Jalibert’s break saw Dupont on hand again and he returned the favour to Thomas – the winger’s 14th try in 23 Tests.

Italy had plenty of ball and finished the game in the ascendency in some key performance indicators. They matched France for line breaks but made twice as many passing errors and conceded twice as many turnovers. They also missed 27 tackles, which is a few too many.

Dupont dazzles as France crush Italy in Six Nations opener Italy full-back Jacopo Trulla

Tackled: Italy full-back Jacopo Trulla, who saved one try when beating Thomas to a grubber (AFP/Getty)

Thomas had the final say, crossing in the corner to bring up the half-century of points, although Italy at least had a try of their own to celebrate as Luca Sperandio finished superbly with a chip and chase.

His try meant Italy avoided the ignominy of a record defeat by France. However, the loss takes their losing Six Nations sequence to 28 and next up are England at Twickenham. The calls for promotion and relegation to be introduced in the championship will only increase with days like this.

Italy head coach Franco Smith said: “It will be difficult to be positive for those who only see the result but we have to think about where to do better. There are negative aspects in our game but we are lacking international experience.

“Ball in hand we played very well and we suffered five tries from our mistakes: we can improve and recover immediately. You learn from these days. It has been a long six weeks and it has been difficult for the franchises as some matches were cancelled due to Covid.

“Growing a team internationally is very difficult, but physically the boys were fine and we were equal to them in intensity.”

Italy v France France coach Fabien Galthie

The boss: France coach Fabien Galthié during the warm-up at Stadio Olimpico (AFP/Getty Images)

His opposite number, Gathié, was pleased that he was able to bring on all of his ‘finishers’ ahead of next weekend’s match in Dublin.

“We scored seven tries, we were efficient. Now we’re going to have a good week to prepare for the game against Ireland,” he said.

“It was our tenth game together as a group, an important game for us away from home. We have a good dynamic and we continue to build on it.

“We will continue to play for those who cannot do so at the moment, the children… Thanks to all these supporters, we are trying to do beautiful things and bring them joy.”

Italy: Jacopo Trulla: Luca Sperandio, Marco Zanon (Carlo Canna 44), Ignacio Brex, Montanna Ioane; Paolo Garbisi (Canna 36-41), Stephen Varney; Daniele Rimpelli (Danilo Fischetti 31), Luca Bigi (capt, Gianmarco Lucchesi 59), Marco Riccioni (Giosué Zilocchi 31), Marco Lazzaroni, David Sisi (Niccolò Cannone 59), Sebastian Negri (Federico Ruzza 59), Johan Meyer (Maxime Mbandà 51, Guglielmo Palazzani 75), Michele Lamaro.

Try: Sperandio. Con: Garbisi. Pen: Garbisi.

France: Brice Dulin; Teddy Thomas, Arthur Vincent, Gaël Fickou (Damian Penaud 59), Gabin Villière; Matthieu Jalibert (Louis Carbonel 59), Antoine Dupont (Baptiste Serin 58); Cyril Baille (Francois Gros 53), Julien Marchand (Pierre Bourgarit 46), Mohamed Haouas (Dorian Aldegheri 53), Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse (Romain Taofifenua 58), Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon (capt), Gregory Alldritt (Anthony Jelonch 58).

Tries: Cretin, Fickou, Vincent, Dulin, Dupont, Thomas 2. Cons: Jalibert 6. Pen: Jalibert.

Dupont dazzles as France crush Italy in Six Nations opener

Spoils of victory: Luca Bigi presents opposing captain Charles Ollivon with the Garibaldi Trophy (Inpho)

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