Scrumhalf Antoine Dupont put on an impressive show as France cruised to a 50-10 bonus-point victory over Italy in the opening game of the 2021 Six Nations in Rome on Saturday.
It could be argued that a blowout result like this in the opening game of the campaign doesn’t bode well for the tournament. But there can be no denying that France were an irresistible force, deserving of this handsome outcome, which underlines Les Bleus’ status as title contenders.
As for standout players, there was none better than Dupont, who strengthened the case of those who believe he is the best attacking scrumhalf in the world at the moment. To illustrate just how good a game the scrumhalf had on Saturday: Dupont had the joint-most try assists (four) in last year’s Six Nations; he had already equalled that number with four try assists in this match alone. And that was just one aspect of his excellence on show. His masterful creativity on attack was on full display and his kicking was other-worldly.
Despite being last year’s Six Nations Player of the Tournament, he had never been named as man of the match in this competition until today when he was named player of the match.
The match itself was never a contest. For all Italy’s attacking endeavour and intent, they were horribly exposed in defence, shipping seven tries. Thanks to their backs wreaking havoc – and Dupont front and centre of all the action – France led 24-3 at the break.
The visitors more than doubled their tally in the second half, adding four further tries, including a brace from Teddy Thomas and one each from Dupont and Bryce Dulin. Italy could only muster one try in the same period, through wing Luca Sperandio.
France’s win not only sends a statement to their fellow title rivals, but the margin of victory also puts pressure on the likes of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland to focus on their points differential, which could be crucial in deciding the championship this season.
Italy – Try: Luca Sperandio. Conversion: Paolo Garbisi. Penalty: Garbisi.
France – Tries: Dylan Cretin, Gael Fickou, Arthur Vinvent, Bryce Dulin, Antoine Dupont, Teddy Thomas (2). Conversions: Matthieu Jalibert (6). Penalty: Jalibert.
Italy – 15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Marco Zanon, 12 Ignacio Brex, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 David Sisi, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Luca Bigi (c), 1 Cherif Traore
Subs: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Niccolo Cannone, 20 Frederico Ruzza, 21 Maxime Mbanda, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Carlo Canna.
France – 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Gregory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (c), 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Subs: 16 Pierre Bourgarit, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Louis Carbonel, 23 Damian Penaud.
Photo: Getty Images