Six Nations Game 1 - Italy vs France (3-39)
With France's hammering at the hands of the All Blacks in the autumn, and Italy touted as being on the brink of taking a big scalp, much was anticipated for the first match in Rome.
Unfortunately, it all rather went with form. After a slow start, and some reasonable Italian defence, Dominici intercepted a wayward pass for the first try. Then the French forwards put in the grunt work and Cédric Heymans [left] finished off the move for the second try.
In the first half, Italy seemed to have the ball for quite a while, and went through lots of phases of play, but when Fabio Ongaro was turned over close to the French try line, that seemed to be typical of Italy's inability to turn possession into points.
Shortly afterwards, Sébastian Chabal [right] went over the chalk with a quick pick and go, for his first try in French colours. I can't believe he's not been in the team more, considering his form for Sale over the past couple of years.
I think Italy's main problem seemed to be their tactics of constantly kicking to touch rather than keeping the ball in hand or defending better. Canale, Italy's No. 13, was the most convincing for me, making a lot of hard yards and decent tackles.
Chabal scored a second try and totally deserved his Man of the Match award, I think. Not only for his try scoring, but also the number of tackles he put in and ball scavanged.
Once the Italian front row was replaced, their pack did perform better at the scrum, and also stole a lineout from France. Pity they couldn't do more of that earlier on.
Jannick Jauzion [left] put yet another nail in the coffin with another try for France, with a well-seen strike. And Mignoni, the French Scrum Half, looked particularly dangerous too, constantly bothering his opposite number at the scrum and generaly at the breakdown.
So, despite Bernard Laporte's inistance that it was an experimental French side, they are looking quite dangerous, which is worrying for the rest of the squads!
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