Flyhalf Frédéric Michalak contributed 19 points as France cruised to a 32-10 win over Italy at Twickenham on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
With the rugby world still reeling after Japan’s shock win over the Springboks, there were those wondering whether Italy could cause another upset despite the fact that the Azzurri had won just three games out of 36 against France prior to this encounter.
However, Italy were dealt an early blow when experienced centre Andrea Masi suffered what looked to be a serious Achilles injury, while their discipline let them down early on as they conceded eight penalties in the first 20 minutes, a couple of which surprisingly came at scrum time.
Michalak did let them off to some degree as two of his penalty attempts hit the post, but the former Sharks player and Currie Cup winner did manage to successfully convert three attempts before the half an hour mark.
Opposite number Tommy Allan got three back for Italy, but South African-born fullback Scott Spedding and Michalak each knocked over a penalty just before half-time to give Les Bleus a 15-3 lead.
Michalak added his fifth penalty just after the restart, while the mercurial pivot then turned to creator as a neat little grubber set up a try for prop Rabah Slimani, enabling France to open up a 22-point cushion.
Italian wing Giovanbattista Venditti briefly kept things interesting when he darted over to score in the 52nd minute, while France then also suffered a significant injury blow when Yoann Huget suffered a tournament-ending knee injury that left him distraught on the sidelines.
Replacement Nicolas Mas put the result beyond doubt, though, when he scored against the post with 10 minutes left to play, and that would be the last points contribution in a rather pedestrian Test.
France – Tries: Rabah Slimani, Nicolas Mas. Conversion: Frédéric Michalak (2). Penalties: Michalak (5), Scott Spedding.
Italy – Try: Giovanbattista Venditti. Conversion: Tommy Allan. Penalty: Allan.
France – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Subs: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Bernard le Roux, 20 Alexandre Flanquart, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Rémi Talès, 23 Gaël Fickou.
Italy – 15 Luke McLean, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Andrea Masi, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Francesco Minto, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 1 Matias Aguero.
Subs: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Simone Favaro, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Enrico Bacchin.
Photo: Shaun Botterill Getty Images