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France start Six Nations with Italian victory


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Article Published: Saturday 4 February 2012


France kicked off the 2012 Six Nations with a convincing 30-12 victory over Italy at Stade de France on Saturday.

2011 Rugby World Cup finalists France lost 22-21 last year to Italy in Italy so the result has a small flavour of revenge about it.

The result hands new France coach Philippe Saint-Andre the perfect start and a confidence boost ahead of their clash with Ireland next week.

Tries from Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and debutant Wesley Fofana, allied with 10 points from Dimitri Yachvili's boot guided France past a toothless Italy side that dominated territory and possession for large periods of the game.

The visitors rarely threatened the French line and when they did launch an attack, were well marshalled by the home side, their points coming from Kris Burton's drop-goal and two penalties, and a third penalty by Tobias Botes.

Italy dominated the opening 10 minutes of play without really threatening, but it was Yachvili who opened the scoring with a 11th minute penalty.

The Australia-born Burton, who had an optimistic early drop-goal charged down, was successful with his second effort to draw the scores level.

France hit straight back, centre Rougerie slicing clean through the midfield defence for a simple try Yachvili converted for a 10-3 lead.

Burton cut the deficit with a penalty after Pascal Pape failed to roll away at a ruck in front of his own posts.

Italy continued to pose France problems at the set-piece and the home side were guilty of forcing the pass as they tried to get on the front foot.

But then Malzieu popped up on his left wing, the welcome recipient of a pass from the impressive No 8 Louis Picamoles after the French pack had won a scrum against the head, the lanky Clermont flyer scoring a fine individual try.

Handing off Edoardo Gori and full-back Andrea Masi, Malzieu easily stepped inside rookie counterpart Giovambattista Venditti and produced a further fend of Gori to crash over in the corner, Yachvili missing the extras.

Burton's early second-half penalty from the halfway line fell short, but the fly-half nailed a third effort from close range in the 47th minute to keep Italy in the game.

But as they had done against Ireland and Australia in the World Cup, the Italians began to wilt around the 50-minute mark, and looked increasingly ragged around the ruck and the half-back channel.

Yachvili missed a longe-range effort as France tried to turn the screw, debutant centre Wesley Fofana finally able to show some of his trademark dancing footwork in close quarters.

The Biarritz scrum-half made no mistake with his third penalty effort, which was quickly followed by Clerc's try, the result of a chip and chase by Francois Trinh-Duc with the Italian defence nowhere to be seen.

With a muted, near sell-out crowd of 79,563 seemingly numbed by temperatures of -2 Celsius, South Africa-born replacement Botes kicked a third penalty for the Italians.

But it ended with a fourth French try after Quintin Geldenhuys was shown a yellow card for collapsing a rolling maul with the line in sight.

From the ensuing line-out and ruck, Fofana showed good strength to cross for a try to mark an assured first international outing.

Final Score France 30 (15) Italy 12 (6)

Scorers

France
Tries: Rougerie, Malzieu, Clerc, Fofana
Conversions: Yachvili 2
Penalties: Yachvili 2

Italy
Penalties: Burton 2, Botes
Drop-goals: Burton

Man of the match : Julien Malzieu

Referee : Nigel Owens

Teams

Italy: Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista Venditti, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Luke McLean, Kristopher Burton, Edoardo Gori; Sergio Parisse (captain), Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zannni, Quintin Geldenhuys, Cornelius van Zyl, Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero.

Reserves: Tommaso D'Apice, Lorenzo Cittadini, Marco Bortolami, Simone Favaro, Fabio Semenzato, Tobias Botes, Gonzalo Canale.

France: Maxime Medard, Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana, Julien Malzieu, Francois Trinh-Duc, Dimitri Yachvili; Louis Picamoles, Julien Bonnaire, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Lionel Nallet, Pascal Pape, Nicolas Mas, William Servat, Vincent Debaty.

Reserves: Dimitri Szarzewski, Jean-Baptiste Poux, Yoan Maestri, Imanol Harinordoquy, Morgan Parra, Lionel Beauxis, Maxime Mermoz.

 
 
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