France send a warning shot to the Rugby world

Sat, 06/02/2021, 09:17 pm
by AFP
Dupont was on fire in the rout. Photo: Getty Images

Scrum-half Antoine Dupont sparked France to a seven-try 50-10 bonus-point victory in their Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on Saturday, boosting hopes of a first title in 11 years.

Dupont touched down and had a role in four other tries with Teddy Thomas dotting down twice as last year's runners-up dominated a young Azzurri side.

Fabien Galthie's side strolled in a sun-drenched Stadio Olimpico against the weakest team in the tournament who are without a win since 2015.

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Les Bleus are looking for their first title since 2010, head to the Aviva Stadium next weekend with Italy travelling to England.

"We scored seven tries. We were efficient. Obviously we have things to improve on, but we're in a good place," said Galthie.

"We need a good week to prepare because Sunday it's Ireland in Dublin, it's not the same atmosphere."

Toulouse scrum-half Dupont, the Six Nations player of the tournament last year, was outstanding, winning man of the match for his role.

The 24-year-old scored a try on 53 minutes after delivering assists, including a low kick at the exit of the maul which found Gael Fickou after 24 minutes.

Dupont went off after the hour with the match already wrapped up 45-3 after a fifth Matthieu Jalibert conversion.

Bordeaux-Begles fly-half Jalibert did well in the absence of Romain Ntamack, who is out with a fractured jaw, converting six tries, and an 11th-minute penalty.

Dylan Cretin and Arthur Vincent both scored their first tries for France.

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Thomas burst through the Italian defence after six minutes with Lyon flanker Cretin going over for his first international try.

Dupont sent through for the onrushing Fickou to pick up the ball to score France's second try after 27 minutes with Vincent getting the third three minute later.

France added four tries after the break through Dulin (49), Dupont(53) and Thomas (56, 74).

Winger Monty Ioane crossed for the overwhelmed Italians after 33 minutes but the try was ruled out because of Stephen Varney's forward pass.

Italy nevertheless saved face a quarter of an hour from the end thanks to Luca Sperandio, which Paolo Garbisi converted, the fly-half having also scored a 20th-minute penalty.

"There is not much to be positive after taking 50 points," said 20-year-old Garbisi.

"We have to learn fast because next Saturday we expect an even tougher match against England, and the level seen today is not acceptable. There's no excuse for today."

The Azzurri extended their Six Nations losing streak to 28 matches, with coach Franco Smith who took over from Conor O'Shea after the 2019 Rugby World Cup still looking for a win.

"I don't think the French are so much better than us," said Smith.

"Physically they are stronger, but there are mistakes that we can avoid, with patience and experience.

"We conceded five tries from our errors, but we can improve and recover immediately.

"It will be difficult to be positive for those who just see the result on it's own, but I'm happy with how the boys kept in the fray all the way.

"It was an important aspect."

Smith is rebuilding a side which has an average age of 20.

"We lack international experience, at the moment we only have the Under-20 team and the two franchises, and many matches have been cancelled," he added.

"The important thing is to believe in your project and in the growth of a young and quality group.

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