France power past Italy in Rugby World Cup opener

Noa Nakaitaci spots a gap for France against Italy

France powered to a 32-10 Rugby World Cup Pool D victory over fellow Six Nations
side Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.

The victory for France was orchestrated by Frederic Michalak who set up the
first try of the match for prop Rabah Slimani and the veteran fly-half also
kicked 19 points.

Replacement prop Nicolas Mas scored France’s only other try 11 minutes from
time. That left them two tries short of a bonus point and already behind Pool
D rivals Ireland.

Italy were without talismanic captain Sergio Parisse with the No 8, who plays
for Paris-based Stade Francais, kept out by a leg injury sustained in a warm-up
match against Wales.

Italy were thrashed 29-0 by France in this season’s Six Nations.

However, there were few moments of inspiration from either side in a first
half which ended with France 15-3 in front, all the points coming from penalties.

France’s strong scrummage against a powerful Italian pack led to a fourth-minute
penalty — awarded by South African referee Craig Joubert.

However, Michalak’s 38-metre effort came back off the post before he made it
3-0 in the seventh minute.

France, in their change strip of red, appeared to have scored a try only, for
the second day in a row at Twickenham, to be chalked off as a result of controversy
involving the use of the television match official.

A loose pass rebounded off Italy’s Leonardo Sarto and was gathered by France
wing Noa Nakaitaci.

Joubert awarded the try and France were just about to take the conversion when
the official looked at the giant screen to see that Nakaitaci had knocked on.

Michalak’s ensuing penalty was some consolation for France and Italy fly-half
Tommasso Allan then pulled a kickable penalty wide.

Italy lost experienced centre Andrew Masi with an Achilles injury.

Despite boasting a front row including veteran prop Martin Castrogiovanni,
an Italian scrum infringement led to a France penalty only for Michalak to again
hit the left post.

A stray Italian hand in the ruck gave Michalak another penalty chance and,
from 35 metres, this one sailed between the posts to make it 9-0, with French
No 8 Louis Picamoles doing much good work in the loose.

Allan eventually opened Italy’s account with a 33rd-minute penalty

Another Italian scrum collapse gave France a penalty just inside their own
half and full-back Scott Spedding, the long-range kick specialist, landed a
superb effort to to make it 12-3.

Michalak kicked his side into a 12-point lead and his fifth successful penalty
nudged France 18-3 in front early in the second half.

France finally scored their first try in the 44th minute.

Nakaitaci’s burst down the touchline saw him release Guilhem Guirado, with
the hooker hauled down by the posts.

The ball was recycled and Michalak’s kick from five metres out was regathered
by Slimani for the front row’s first Test try.

Michalak converted and France were well clear at 25-3.

Italy hit back with a 52nd-minute try when, after Sarto went close, a quick
ball allowed Italy wing Giovanbattista Venditti to race over on the right.

Allan converted and France’s lead had been cut to 25-10.

France then saw wing Yoann Huget, visibly in pain, limp off with what appeared
to be a severe hamstring injury.

It needed a typically hard-charging run from powerful France centre Mathieu
Bastareaud to set up the position from which Mas placed the ball at the base
of the post for the second try.

Final Score France 32 (15) Italy 10 (3)

Scorers

France
Tries – Slimani, Mas
Pen – Michalak (5), Spedding
Con – Michalak (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Italy
Tries – Venditti
Pen – Allan
Con – Allan
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Craig Joubert (RSA)

Teams

France

Scott Spedding; Yoann Huget, Mathieu Bastareaud, Alexandre Dumoulin, Noa Nakaitaci;
Frederic Michalak, Sebastian Tillous-Borde; Louis Picamoles, Damien Chouly,
Thierry Dusautoir (capt); Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape; Rabah Slimani, Guilhem
Guirado, Eddy Ben Arous

Replacements: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Bernard Le Roux,
Alexandre Flanquart, Morgan Parra, Remi Tales, Gael Fickou

Italy

Luke McLean; Leonardo Sarto, Michele Campagnaro, Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista
Venditti; Tommaso Allan, Edoardo Gori; Samuela Vunisa, Francesco Minto, Alessandro
Zanni; Josh Furno, Quintin Geldenhuys; Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini
(capt), Matias Aguero

Replacements: Andrea Manici, Michele Rizzo, Lorenzo Cittadini, Valerio Bernabo,
Simone Favaro, Guglielmo Palazzani, Carlo Canna, Enrico Bacchin

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