After two fairly disappointing matches on Sunday, France provided a breath of fresh air with 65 minutes of free-flowing attacking rugby against an Italian side who, until this weekend, had been miserly in defence. Marc LiÃƒÂ¨vremont and his staff will be a little worried at the way the Italians came back towards the end of the game, and he will know that against better teams such sloppiness could prove more costly, but the way France were able to create holes all over the pitch was a joy to watch.
After a ceremonial kickoff given by football legend, Lilian Thuram, in support of the Aids awareness charity Red, France took complete control with huge gaps appearing in the Italian midfield. It took just six minutes for Imanol Harinordoquy, surely the player of the tournament so far, to score the first try, after a good break from Morgan Parra. The young scrum half converted the try and added a further penalty before Gonzalo Garcia saw yellow for a block on Marc Andreu, as the diminutive Castres winger tried to chip him for a try on his first start.
France took full advantage of the extra man with David Marty scoring two tries, the first after a beautiful flat pass from FranÃƒÂ§ois Trinh-Duc. However, it was the second that was the highlight of the weekend as ClÃƒÂ©ment Poitrenaud, who is finally fulfilling his huge potential, ran back an aimless Italian kick, showing incredible pace to burst through a couple of tackles before the ball ended up with Harinordoquy. The Basque number eight played the two on one perfectly to give Marty a clear run to the corner. Italy were able to manage one penalty before half time, but a 22-3 scoreline looked very ominous.
The second half started a little more slowly with a penalty apiece, although David Marty was unfortunate to be called back for what could have been his hat trick try as he was adjudged to be in front of the kicker. Then, after good work from the French forwards, Andreu found himself in the midfield with space in front of him, and despite the attentions of Mirco Bergamasco, he showed the pace to finish.
He followed this up with another break to allow Yannick Jauzion to go over for FranceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fifth try, and when Julien Malzieu offloaded to his Clermont teammate Alexandre Lapandry for FranceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sixth try, Italy looked like they were going to be humiliated. However, that was not the case and France paid for some careless defence as the Italians fought back.
First replacement lock, Carlo del Fava went over after good work from Paul Derbyshire, and then Pablo Canavosio, who was a tactical substitution made by Nick Mallett in the first half, made a great break from a scrum to score. Two conversions from Mirco Bergamasco made it a respectable 46-20 final scoreline.
Whilst Italy travel to Wales next week, knowing that a win would equal their highest ever Six Nations finish of fourth, France will entertain England with a grand slam on the line. After three successive defeats to the English, and a humiliating 34-10 defeat last year at Twickenham, Marc LiÃƒÂ¨vremontÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team will be desperate to put things right on Saturday night. If this weekendÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s performances were anything to go by, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to see how they will be stopped.
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BIOGRAPHY: Hector Bellerin
BIOGRAPHY: Nemanja Matic