- rugby - Six Nations
French hosts beat Italy in Six Nations opener
Title favourites France opened their Six Nations campaign with a 30-12 victory over a gallant Italian side on Saturday, avenging their shock defeat to the same opponents in Rome last year.
REUTERS - Julien Malzieu scored a wonderful try as World Cup runners-up France kicked off their Six Nations campaign with a 30-12 victory over Italy to hand manager Philippe Saint-Andre a winning debut on Saturday.
Left wing Malzieu handed off three tackles in his 40-metre first-half burst as France made their chances count with Aurelien Rougerie, Vincent Clerc and Wesley Fofana also touching down on a bitterly cold afternoon in the French capital. Dimitri Yachvili kicked 10 points for the hosts.
Italy, who beat France for the first time in the Six Nations last year, shaded territory and possession in the opening half but rarely threatened a sturdy home defence.
Kristopher Burton landed two penalties and a drop goal for Italy and Tobias Botes also kicked a penalty.
"We're very happy to have beaten them, it's a little bit of revenge," said Yachvili.
"There are many teams who can win it (the Six Nations). We finished runners up in the World Cup so many teams are waiting for us."
"It's a great start to a new era," added centre Rougerie.
France, who dominated at the scrum, will take on Ireland at the Stade de France next Saturday, while Italy entertain England at the Stadio Olimpico.
"We leave the pitch with our head held high," Italy captain Sergio Parisse told a pitch side interviewer.
"France showed more ambition, they were more inspired."
For his first match in charge since he took over from Marc Lievremont in December, Saint-Andre made made five changes to the team that started the World Cup final, with Wesley Fofana making his debut at centre.
Vincent Debaty was at loosehead prop, Malzieu on the left wing, Francois Trinh-Duc featured as flyhalf and Louis Picamoles, who was brilliant throughout, was wearing the number eight shirt.
Italy, also playing for the first time under new coach Jacques Brunel, made a bright start and pinned the hosts in their own half, but France defended resiliently and went ahead thanks to a Yachvili penalty following a 60-metre counter attack down the left wing by Malzieu, who had gathered the ball after an awkward bounce inside his 22.
Burton responded with a drop goal, only for France to score their first try from their first attack when Rougerie took full advantage of a gap in the visitors defence, with Yachvili adding the extras.
Burton kept his team in contention with a penalty, but France had the creativity with Malzieu capping another fine burst to put his side 15-6 up at the break.
Yachvili and Burton traded penalties after the break before France punished Italy again after they had lost possession in their own half. Trinh-Duc chipped the ball over the top, Rougerie kicked it on and Clerc gathered to cross over.
A tiring Italy side were reduced to 14 men after Quintin Geldenhuys was shown a yellow card for bringing down a maul while France were pushing for another try.
Another score duly came with Fofana completing victory after replacement Morgan Parra had quickly spread play to the left.