France make explosive start to Six Nations with 50-10 win in Italy

Alasdair Mackenzie
·3-min read

By Alasdair Mackenzie

ROME (Reuters) - France got their Six Nations title bid off to the perfect start as they scored seven tries in a crushing 50-10 bonus point victory over a youthful Italy side in the championship opener in Rome on Saturday.

The visitors raced into a 21-point lead by halftime after 2020 Player of the Championship Antoine Dupont set up converted tries from Dylan Cretin, Gael Fickou and Arthur Vincent.

The onslaught didn't relent after the break as Brice Dulin and Dupont each crossed the whitewash, while Teddy Thomas scored tries either side of Luca Sperandio's consolation effort to consign Italy to a 28th consecutive tournament defeat.

"We worked very well during our preparation camp in Nice. We focused on details, and today we implemented our plan. We had been serious all week, and we've done everything we had to to win," France captain Charles Ollivon told French TV.

"We know the Italians well. They put a lot of intensity in the beginning of the game.

"Our performance gives us a lot of confidence for the Ireland game (on Feb. 14) although we have to keep our feet on the ground. We have to get back to work."

The huge victory further underlined the title-winning credentials of Fabien Galthie’s side, who finished as runners-up last year, while the inexperience of an Italian team featuring 11 starters with fewer than 10 caps was ruthlessly exposed.

"Unfortunately it's very difficult to make an international team develop. We don't have much time together," Italy head coach Franco Smith told a news conference.

"Physically we were good, in terms of the number of actions, and our intensity was on a level with theirs. Also, in the final part of the game, in the last 20 minutes, we were still right there physically.

"But we conceded many tries from our own errors or from one or two missed tackles."

France last won the Six Nations in 2010, but on the evidence of the devastating form they showed in the Italian capital, they will be in contention to wrestle the trophy from England's grasp this year.

No team scored more tries than France's 17 in last year's Championship, and they continued that attacking form in Rome despite missing injured flyhalf Romain Ntamack and centre Virimi Vakatawa.

Man of the match Dupont put in an electric performance as the scrumhalf sent Cretin stretching under the posts for the opening try before sending a deft kick behind the Italian defence for Fickou's effort and offloading to set up Vincent's score.

Italy wing Montanna Ioane looked to have marked his first Six Nations appearance with a try, but his effort was chalked off for a forward pass by Stephen Varney.

After the break, Dulin chased down Gabin Villiere's kick to dot down in the corner, Dupont raced under the posts and Thomas gathered a Dupont pass to score as the Italian defence was torn apart.

Sperandio gave the home side something to celebrate when he chipped a kick over a defender and raced after it to score, but the visitors had the last laugh when Thomas crossed for a seventh French try.

England host Scotland at Twickenham later on Saturday, and Ireland visit Wales on Sunday in the other round one fixtures.

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Hugh Lawson)